Sometimes being a Christian in today’s world feels a little bit like warfare. We try to equip ourselves to rise above and to walk forward, but the bullets still come. Sexuality, greed, distractions, prejudice, cultural expectations, politics. And it seems impossible to walk the Christian walk when we’re just trying to survive. And everybody’s watching. What if our strength could be the catalyst for others to rise? How do we shield ourselves against all the temptations? Will the enemy ever cease fire? What does it take to walk the walk?
Good afternoon to everybody, and a happy father’s day to all the fathers that are here. I’ve got to confess something to you. I think it was either last service or nine o’clock. I don’t know when it was, but I must have shaken hands and hugged somebody that had been given some really nice cologne for Father’s Day because I smell good. I mean, I’m telling you right now, whatever it is is pretty good. So, if you want to smell how good I am, give me a hug after church because it’s pretty good stuff. But, anyway, happy Father’s Day to everybody.
We’re in a series called “The Walk.” The whole series has been about how do we walk with the Lord and what does it look like to walk after the Lord? I’ve made some notations along the way that the Lord’s not after a decision from you and me. He wants a relationship with you and me, and the Old Testament and the New Testament refers to that as a walk. In other words, we walk with the Lord. It’s a relationship. You know, we turn from walking the way we were walking and we turn towards the Lord and walk with Him. It doesn’t mean we get everything perfect, it doesn’t mean we always do everything right, but it is an active relationship that we’re walking with the Lord. And we’ve talked about what that looks like in a lot of nuanced ways.
Well, this particular weekend, we’re going to deal with something that’s a little strange and a little hard for us to get our arms around, especially as those of us who live in the west because we live in a very scientific world. Everything is empirically verified. Everything is bottom line. Everything has sort of got a naturalistic explanation. And so, when Scripture talks about the fact that you and I are involved in a spiritual battle and that there are spiritual things going on, it’s a little hard for us to fully understand because we just think of the world as natural causes. We don’t think that there actually could be something going on that we can’t see, but yet Scripture says that there is.
So, we want to look at that this weekend because it is part of our walk with the Lord that we’re in a spiritual battle. And I can tell you this: If I were to get 10 people together that knew the Bible really well, that understood both Old and New Testament and I were to say, “Give me your top one or two verses on a spiritual battle in Scripture,” inevitably, at the top of the list — if not the top of the list, at least the second or third one — would be a passage that we find in Ephesians 6:10-12 that deals with this spiritual battle that’s going on. So, if you’re familiar with that, you know. You’re like, “Yeah. That is a passage that deals with that.”
If you’re not familiar with that, that’s okay. No big deal at all because we’re going to end up in that passage by the end of the message and look at what that means for you and me to walk and what it means to be in a spiritual battle. But before we get there, because I think it’s going to be imperative to understand contextually what Paul is talking about, we want to do a little bit of background work in the epistle to the Ephesians. So, I’m going to do a little bit more of my professor side today with everybody. I’m going to do a little bit more teaching. I’m going to help us learn to understand Scripture a little bit. When we work through that argument of the epistle to the Ephesians, we’re going to finally get to Ephesians 6:10-12 and it’s going to make a lot more sense to us than if I just started there and lifted it out of context.
So, to do that, let’s do a little work here on understanding how to read and study the Bible. Let me give you an example here of why it’s so important to read and study the Bible properly. If we could — we can’t. But, if we could get in that proverbial DeLorean and go back in time, and we could somehow land right before the Civil War broke out between the northern states and the southern states, we might find a church somewhere in the Deep South where the preacher would be up preaching out of the epistle to the Ephesians and would be saying something to this extent:
“Listen, I am your pastor and I believe that the Bible is the Word of God and I believe that when we read the Bible, whatever it says literally, we ought to take it and we ought to apply it to our lives. The Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it. Church, what we have today in our union is we have some northern people that are trying to change what we do down here that is biblical. They go to these high intellectual seminaries — Yale and Princeton — and they think they know how to read the Bible and they tell us that’s not what the Bible says. But I’m going to tell you right now it’s very clear what the Bible says. Get your Bible out, your King James Version. Here in Ephesians 6:5, it says, ‘Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling.’ Church, what this says here is in God’s Word that slavery is a part of the way God has ordained the world. There are slaves and there are masters, and that’s what it says. Since it says it and it’s literal and it’s right there in front of us, we’re going to believe that.”
Unfortunately, many people in the church would’ve said, “Well, that’s sort of what it says. So, let’s go with it,” which is why it’s so important for us to go, “We need to interpret the Bible. How do we read this?”
Just so that you know, there are people today that point to passages like this that say, “Your Bible itself condones certain acts that we wouldn’t condone anymore”
And most of us in here go, “Yeah. You know what? We’re not for that at all. We don’t believe that that’s true.”
But, being honest, we might be handed that passage and we might not know how to explain what’s going on, which is why we need to read the Bible right. Because what follows that particular passage right after Paul gives that admonition is the passage that we’re going to get to. So, if we say, “That passage is no longer relevant. It doesn’t make any sense. We’ll just pull it out of the Bible.”
Well then, what other passages do we pull out of the Bible? And if we don’t pull it out of the Bible, then what does it mean for you and me. And to understand that, we’re going to have to learn how to read an epistle. We’re going to have to understand, “When I go to the Bible and I read, what am I reading when I read an epistle?”
So, let’s work on that a little bit. I think as we work through this you’re going to see how that passage falls and how it makes total sense once we read it right, and then how we work into Ephesians 6:10-12, the spiritual battle that we’re going to talk about at the last part of the message. And I think everything’s going to fall into place and we’re going to learn a lot. And I think we’re going to leave differently than when we came in.
So, let’s talk about the epistles. Just so that you know, the epistles are not the wives of the apostles, just in case anybody thought that that was the case. That’s not what they are. They’re letters that are written to the churches. They’re letters that we called ad hoc documents. The Latin term “ad hoc” means “for this.” In other words, they were written “for this reason.” They were written for a reason when they were written to the Church. And they’re specifically crafted. So, if you’re reading Galatians or Thessalonians or James or Jude or whatever — maybe 1 John — you’re reading an epistle. You’re not reading the Gospels. The Gospels are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They’re a different literary genre. Acts is historical narrative. You’ve got to read that a certain way. The epistles are letters that were written by an apostle or by an associate of an apostle or by somebody that knew Jesus. James was Jesus’ brother, and he writes the epistle that we call “James.”
They were specifically crafted documents. In other words, they mattered. What they’re writing is dealing with something that’s going on in that local church at that specific time. So, they were written to a specific people. It was not written to you and me. It was written for you and me, but not to you and me. In a specific time, place and purpose. So, when we go to any of these New Testament documents that we call epistles and we’re reading them, if we don’t quite understand the background, the time, the place, the purpose or whatever, we might misinterpret what is being said in this book. And it’s easy to just go and have the arrogance and pride — and you’ll see it in the Church. “Well, I’m just going to read this like I would read any other book, and it’s just going to make sense to me.”
These are antiquated documents. We really do have to spend some time. We would never, ever, ever go read Plato’s Republic or Plato’s Symposium or any of those books or try to read Aristophanes’ comedies and just assume that we know what they mean. And we do a disservice to Scripture when we don’t understand that not knowing the background of some of these epistles might lead us to form conclusions that are not entirely Biblical. I can give you an example, like the epistle to the Galatians. The epistle to the Galatians is typically read in the Church through the lens of the Protestant reformation. We hear “works” and we hear “grace” in that epistle. So, we normally think of doing stuff for God or experiencing grace.
The epistle to the Galatians is not dealing with those categories like that. The epistle to the Galatians is dealing with a group of people that have come from Jerusalem called the Judaizers. They’ve come into the Galatian church and they’ve told them that unless they get circumcised and unless they keep the works of the law — and that’s not the 613 commandments in the Old Testament. The works of the law are table fellowship, dietary and Sabbath laws. It’s a particular phrase in the First Century that if they don’t do those things right — that’s why, in Galatians 2 when the Judaizers come and Peter leaves eating with the Gentiles, he’s keeping the works of the law at that point. That’s why Paul rebukes him publicly. So, if we read it through the lens of what we think we’re reading, we might misinterpret that epistle.
All of these epistles have those minefields. If we don’t understand the people, the time, the place and the purpose, we’re likely to come to some wrong conclusions. So, therefore, knowing this, we can say a couple of really positive comments about the epistles that will help us in understanding how to read them. First of all, they’re corrective in nature. What that means is this: The epistles are written to Christians in a church. So, if you take an epistle and read something out of an epistle and you say it to your non-Christian friend, you’re in some ways betraying the way these books were written. They were not written to non-Christians. They were written to Christians and they are corrective in nature. In other words, as we read through these epistles, every single one is dealing with some deficiencies in the local church that the writer is having to address and to correct.
The reason they’re doing that is because the writers believe that the local church is the most important institution in society. If their witness is marred, if the witness of the local church looks more like the culture than it looks like Christ there’s going to be a problem. And so, these epistles are written to correct things. That’s why when you read Corinthians or you read Ephesians or you read Titus or you read Timothy, you’ll see there’s so many things that these books say about, “No, don’t do this. You should maybe do this.”
It’s corrective in nature, written to believers that are somehow looking a little bit more like their culture than they’re looking like Christ. Now, because they’re corrective in nature, they address specific issues. They’re dealing with issues, not primarily propositional truth. A propositional truth line would be, “God is love.”
Now, we might sit down and ask, “What does love mean?” We might sit down and ask, “What does God mean?” But we know that that is a propositionally true statement. God is love. We don’t have to do a whole lot of work on that. God is love. Okay. The epistles are not read like that. They’re not Bible bullets to pull a passage out and then quote it at somebody as if, “Okay, this is what you ought to go do.”
It’s not dealing with that. It’s dealing with correction to specific issues, which means the truth that is embedded in the corrective nature of that issue is something that we have to dig in to get and pull out the truth that is correcting the issue. Not the issue in the correction, but the truth that is guiding that. And that’s called good hermeneutics. That’s called reading the Bible right. So, it takes some work to understand this stuff.
So, they’re corrective in nature. They address specific issues, not primarily propositional truths. And, as such, what they really are — and it’s what most of the New Testament is — is a playing out in history of redemptive history. In other words, what we’re seeing is how does the fact that Jesus has risen from the dead, that Jesus is gone and ascended to the Father, that He has sent the Spirit to be in His Church — what does it look like to be a Christian in the world that we live in? And watch that sort of play out in redemptive history.
I’ll give you an example of how, just so you can understand how redemptive history works. If you go to the New Testament and you go to the Gospels, we meet a guy named Peter. We all know this guy. We know he can be erratic. In Matthew 16, he can be saying that Jesus is the Son of God, He is the Messiah, He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and Jesus can look at him and say, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed that to you, but my Father which is in heaven.” And just about a minute later, he can be getting rebuked and Jesus can say, “Get behind me, Satan.”
I mean, Peter goes from aces high to murderers’ row in like a minute. I mean, he’s this type of guy. Not only does he then go cringing away when Jesus is crucified, but Jesus shows up, he jumps out of the boat and he goes and has fish with Jesus on the beach. He’s sees Jesus alive. He sees the resurrected Christ. He experiences the resurrected Christ. Not only that, but on the Day of Pentecost when he’s filled with the Spirit of God, he preaches a message where thousands of people come to faith. I mean, this is a man that has been touched by the Gospel. This is a man that’s been touched by God.
But we go just a few chapters later in the book of Acts and God says, “I want you to go visit Cornelius. “I’m not going to go visit Cornelius because he’s a Gentile.” You’d be going, “Dude, you had all those experiences with Jesus and you still don’t quite get it?”
No. God had to give him three visions to finally go to the household of Cornelius. What’s going on here? What we’re seeing is we’re watching the development of the Church throughout the New Testament which means the New Testament is far more describing the things in this epistolary literature than it is prescribing things to you and me. Because it’s corrective in nature, dealing with specific issues, and it’s a playing out of redemptive history. In other words, “How do I deal with this?” Which is what we have to do. We have to start asking the question to ourselves once we read these books and figure out what’s going on. We have to start asking, “How would then I apply redemptive history in my world,” because the world that we live in is different than the world that they lived in.
So, let’s look at this. Let’s back up here for a minute and try to see how this plays out in the real world in Ephesians so that we can understand what Paul is saying to that church. Then what we’re going to do is we’re going to move it into 2018 and we’re going to try to see what it would mean for you and me to apply to our lives. So, let’s look at what goes on here.
In Ephesians 1:3, Paul tells them that they have been blessed with all of the spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus. In other words, they’ve got all the things that they need. They’ve been chosen. They’ve been predestined. They’ve been adopted by the One who does all things after the counsel of His own will. And not only that, but they have received the inheritance of the Spirit in their lives. And by the end of Ephesians 1, Paul says, “And, man, you are the Church. You are the vehicle that God is going to fill all in all with.”
In other words, man, the Church is a really significant entity in the book of Ephesians. If you go home and read it this week, I would challenge you — six chapters. You can read it in one sitting. Underline the word “church” when you read the epistle to the Ephesians. You will find that you underline on a regular basis. It’s all about the Church. Paul is saying, “Listen, you guys in Ephesus don’t look like Jesus anymore. You look more like the culture that you live in than you look like Jesus. And I’m going to write this to you to give you some correction. First of all, look at what Jesus has done for you. He’s forgiven you, He’s chosen you, He’s adopted you, He’s filled you with His Spirit and He’s made you this vehicle, the Church.”
And so, you understand how that works. Let’s make sure that we all understand how we got in there. Ephesians 2:1. When we were all dead in trespasses and sins and we had no hope in this world, and we were by nature children of wrath, what did God do? God, who is rich in His mercy, loved us and He gave us provision to be saved. That’s why it’s by grace that we’re saved, not by the things that we do lest we would boast. And you see that in Ephesians 2:1 about being dead in trespasses and sins. And then, in Ephesians 2:8 where we’re saved by grace through faith, and that’s not of our own doing. It’s the gift of God. Not of works, lest anyone would boast. And because all of us come the same way, Paul says, “So, let me tell you the mystery now. Remember how it used to be that there was Jew and there was Gentile? Remember how that used to be?”
Okay. What He’s done — you can see that Ephesians 2:12-13 and following. He says, “What’s happened is that middle wall of partition that separated Jew from Gentile has now been torn down and He’s made one new man. That’s the Church. The Church has been made now of both Jew and Gentile and it’s one new man.”
This is incredible because in Ephesians 3 he says, “Let me bring it a little bit more. Through the Church, God is going to make known His manifold wisdom and grace even to the principalities and powers that are in the heavenly places.”
And then he says, “So, let me stop for a moment and pray for you so that you get the download of all this stuff that God has done in your life and what He wants you to be because He wants you to be the Church in Ephesus. So, I’m going to bow right now and I’m going to pray for you that you understand the breadth and the depth and the height and the width of the love of God and you understand the One who’s going to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we could ever ask or think.”
And he says, “Now that I’ve prayed for you,” in Ephesians 4:1, “here’s what I want you to do. I want you to walk worthy of the calling to which you’ve been called. I want you to look like what you are. I want you to live this out.”
So, in doing that, God has made provision. You can see it in Ephesians 4:12-13. He’s put people in the Church — apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers and evangelists — to equip the saints so that the saints can do the ministry so that in Ephesians 4:17-18 you no longer walk the way you used to walk and you start living a different life. You look differently. So, into Ephesians 5, you’re no longer doing these things and those things anymore. You’re living a different, ethical and moral life and you’re redeeming the time, in Ephesians 5:15-16, because the days are evil.
“And since all of that’s true, I don’t want you to live like the culture you live in. I don’t want you to be drunk with wine, wherein is excess. I don’t want you to live this party life that you all are living and just sort of doing whatever you’re doing. You’re called to be the Church. Jesus has done all these things for you. He’s blessed you with all these blessings. I want you to walk this thing out. God’s put provision in the Church to get you equipped. Don’t live that way. What I want you to do is I want you to be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18. You are the Spirit-filled community in Ephesus. Be filled with the Spirit. And when you’re filled with the Spirit, you’re not going to look like the world. You’re going to be different.”
He doesn’t give an exhaustive list. He doesn’t give a prescriptive list. He gives a descriptive list of what it might look like to be filled with the Spirit. He says, “Here’s what you’re going to do: You’re going to be thankful. You’re going to sing songs and you’re going to sing hymns and spiritual songs and you’re going to make melody in your heart to the Lord. You’re going to love God and be thankful. And you’re going to be submitting to one another out of reference for Christ.”
Which would be like, “Whoa. We’re going to submit? We’re going to be the Spirit-led Church and we’re going to submit one to another out of reverence for Christ?”
Just think about this for a second. How many churches really submit one to another out of reverence for Christ? Basically none, which Paul is saying is part and parcel of really being the Church. He says it in Philippians. “Have one mind and one accord. Let this mind be in you which is also in Christ Jesus.” He says it throughout all the epistolary literature. Everybody’s saying the same thing. Jesus says it in the high priestly prayer that He prays over you and me in John 17:21 and John 17:23.
“Father, let them be one, as we are one, so that the world may know.”
He says, “I want everybody to be filled with the Spirit and I want us submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. I want us to look different than the world. I want us to look different than our culture.”
And then, if you would’ve lived in Ephesus, you would’ve known what’s called the “household code.” The household code was Roman in its invention, and everybody knew it because the Romans, in their empire, what they did not want was chaos. They wanted to make sure there wasn’t chaos because they knew that chaos could erupt and, before long, chaos would get a leader. And, before long, there would be a fight going on in this outer corridor of some place out in the outer banks of the empire. So, they liked to have order.
So, the Romans had what was called a “household code.” Everybody would’ve known it. It wouldn’t have been any surprise to anybody. And the household code went something like this: In order to establish order in society, there has to be a hierarchical chain of command. And here’s the way it works. In the household — and the Roman household included your family, your wife, your children and the businesses that went on in the household or what your economy might be. It was all of that together.
Here’s the way it worked: If you were the man in the house, your wife submitted to you. If you were the man in the house, your children submitted to you. And if you were the man of the house, your slaves, if you had them, submitted to you. Paul says, “Okay. That’s the way the Romans do it. Here’s the way we do it: We’re going to submit one to another, and we’re going to do it in a way that’s revolutionary that shows that Jesus is in our midst in Ephesus.”
In Ephesians 5:22, it reads, literally, “Wives, to your husbands as to the Lord.”
The word “submit” is not in Ephesians 5:22. So, everybody who’s always looked at their wife and said, “Wife, submit to me. Ephesians 5:22,” the word “submit” is not in the original Greek. It is pulled from this word, because what Paul is doing is not teaching wives to submit to their husbands. He’s teaching the entire household how to submit one to another out of reverence for Christ.
He says, “To the women, that they submit to their husbands as to the Lord.” And they needed to hear that because, in Ephesus, if you understand how the culture was run at the time, there was a large, large temple there that was run by women who taught that women were far superior to men and the men that serve them, they castrated. So, Paul is saying to the women, “Hey, look, we can’t be looking like our culture here running around. You need to submit to your husbands. And husbands are going to submit to their wives, too, because they’re going to love them as Christ loved the Church.”
Which would’ve been radical because that’s not the way it worked in the First Century. It was, “Here’s the hierarchy.” Paul’s saying, “No. We’re changing this. The hierarchy is that we worship the Lord. And, in worshiping the Lord, we put others first. We do it differently. We’re the Spirit-filled community. We look like Jesus.”
So, women are going to submit to their husbands. Men are going to submit to their wives by loving them and giving themselves for them. And he’s not even talking about marriage. That’s what he says. He goes, “I’m not even talking about marriage. I’m talking about Christ in the Church. He’s talking about the witness of the Church in the world. He’s not even trying to address things that we think he’s trying to address. He’s saying, “Listen, we’ve got to look different. We’re the Spirit-filled community in Ephesus and we look more like the culture than we look like the world. We need to be filled of the Spirit, we need to submit one to another, and here’s the way it’s going to work.”
And then, Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, you are going to not provoke your children to anger.”
The “children obey your parents” would’ve been commonplace for most people. That’s what they did in Ephesians 6:1. But in Ephesians 6:4, that parents, fathers in particular, would not provoke their children to anger was radical because children were like cattle. They were property. Paul says, “This is the way you can mutually submit one to another. Fathers, you honor your children. Children should honor their fathers, but fathers, you honor your children.”
And then he says, “And slaves honor your masters.” And then he says this, and this is so important. “Masters, do the same to them.” Because, see, this is all flowing together. This is not disparate things that you just pull out and go, “Oh, this is how you run your marriage. And then what do we do with this slave thing? Let’s just chuck it and get rid of it because it doesn’t make any sense to us.”
No. It makes perfect sense. Because here’s what he’s saying: “As we work out these issues in the local church, an outworking of redemptive history, we’re going to do it differently. Masters, you’re going to do the same to them. You’re going to honor them.”
Which would’ve been radical.
“And you’re going to stop your threatening. You’re not going to do this anymore. You’re going to know that He who is both their master and yours is in heaven...” — listen — “...and there’s no partiality with Him.”
What is Paul saying here? Paul’s saying, “Hey, listen. If you really understand how God is working in the Church, the distinction that the Roman society makes between slaves and owners is not made by God. Therefore, maybe it shouldn’t be something that we do in the local church.”
Which is why, when he writes Philemon and the slave has run away, he says, “Accept him back as a brother,” because this is an outworking. This is not Bible bullets that you pull out and extract out. This is a letter that was written at a time and a place for a purpose.
Now, all of this is so important because the next words that Paul says in these continual argument and the continual flow of what he’s saying is this: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
So, what’s he saying here? Rather than just lift this out and run wild with it, what is he saying? He’s just said, “Hey, listen, this is what I want you to be. I want you to be different. I want you to be the Church that God’s called you to be. I want you to walk this out. I want you to be different. I want us to be a place that’s filled with the Spirit and mutually submitting one to another. We’ve revolutionized the household code. We’ve revolutionized the way culture’s done. We’re all going to work together on this thing. And so, since I’ve said all of those things to you, finally, because it’s not going to be easy to love others and to mutually submit and to put others before you and not want to pull back to culture and the hierarchical authorities,” —
That’s why Paul can later on say, in the epistle to the Galatians, “In Christ there’s neither male nor female. There’s neither bond nor free; slaves or free. None of that. There’s neither Jew nor Gentile. All are one in Christ Jesus because we don’t do that stuff. The hierarchy is Jesus. The way it works out is we serve one another. We don’t play the games that culture plays.”
And then he goes, “You’re not going to be able to not play the games that culture plays if you think you’re going to do this in your own strength. It ain’t going to happen. You’re going to have to be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. This is going to be something that God’s going to have to work in you. It’s not going to be something that you’re going to be able to do on your own.”
“Therefore put on the whole armor of God,”
“If you think you’re going to just get up in the morning and just live a Christian life without culture influencing you and you ending up looking more like culture than Christ,” Paul says, “You’re gravely mistaken. You need to understand something, Church at Ephesus. Please listen to me. Your witness in Ephesus is going to be challenged by spiritual forces that all they care about is to ruin your witness in Ephesus. If the Church looks like the culture in Ephesus, then the witness for Christ is gone.”
And when the Church looks like culture, the witness is gone because people who are on the outside are going to go, “Well, the Church doesn’t look any different than these people. It doesn’t look any different than that particular group. It doesn’t look any different than that.”
Paul is saying, “No. Reject this.”
“Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand...” — notice here he doesn’t say “fight.” I grew up in a tradition where all we did was fight the devil. It was like we had prayer meetings against the devil. We’d bind in everything and loose in everything and yelling at the devil and all this stuff. One day, I was in prayer. Twenty minutes had gone by and I’m going, “Man, we haven’t even prayed to God yet. All we’ve done is yelled at the devil for twenty minutes.”
I’m going, “That just doesn’t seem right. Something seems wrong about this.”
Okay. Paul doesn’t say fight. He says to stand. He already told us in Ephesians 1, 2 and 3 what Christ has done to secure the Church and what He’s done for the Church. He says, “Put on the armor of God and stand against the schemes, the tactics, the methods of the diablos, the liar, the slanderer, the accuser.”
He says, “Listen, we don’t wrestle.”
See, in antiquity, you’d start off with bow and arrows from a distance. And then, as the war got closer, it would be swords. And then, as it got really close, it would be wrestling. And if you were wrestling on the ground with one of your opponents, the one who got up lived and the one who didn’t get up died. He says, “We don’t wrestle against flesh and blood. You know that fight you think you’re having with your husband or wife? Or that challenge that you think you’re having with your children?”
Or, for us it wouldn’t be slaves and masters. It’d be going to work. The boss, the co-workers. Part of our household, how the economics in our household works. He says, “Let me make something really clear. Your battle about living your witness in society is not against flesh and blood. You’re going to think that it is. You’re going to get mad at people. You’re going to want to get back at people. You’re going to want to be mean at people. You’re going to say, ‘Look what they did to me.’ No, no, no. Your battle’s not against flesh and blood. That’s not where the battle’s at. It’s against rulers and authorities and cosmos powers over this present darkness, and against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places that have one focus for you as a believer: To destroy your witness for Christ in the local community. That’s what they care about. That’s what they want to do.”
If they can get the Church looking like culture — and we do. I mean, think about it. So often, the Church looks more like culture than it does look like Christ. I mean, Christ turns the other cheek. Christ loves enemies. Christ washes feet. He is different from the way culture works. Culture says, “Get what’s yours.” Christ says, “Go love others.” And then what we do — and this is so damaging — is we adopt culture, and then what we do is we take Christ and try to cram Him into our culture and make the Bible work for the things that we want to believe culturally, rather than letting Christ reject the culture that we live in and live the way God wanted us to live. Big difference. Big difference.
Okay. So, let’s back up here for a minute and let’s unplug. Let’s download some real practical things now that we’ve worked through this epistle and we’ve learned sort of how to better read it and we’ve got a better idea of what’s going on. Let’s just unplug for a minute and listen to some of the things that we need to think about practically in our life. Give me a minute to explain this. Number one: The spiritual battle — we just read that there’s a spiritual battle. There’s cosmic forces. We’re not wrestling against flesh and blood. We just read this.
The spiritual battle reminds us that evil is real. When I say that, let me explain to you why that’s so important. This is such an important thing for you and me to grasp. When I or you say that evil is real, what we’re making is a moral judgment. We’re making a judgment that something is evil, which means there’s also, alternatively, something that is good. I don’t know how you all do your things in life, but I have an iPhone. It’s funny. People call me PC, but I use Apple products. But I write down on my iPad with a stylus, or I type on my phone on notes because I’m constantly assimilating stuff when I’m working on either classes as a professor or, as a pastor, working on sermons.
I jotted this down and I said, “You know, I need to read this to the congregation so that they understand why this is so important.”
Let me read what I wrote down on my iPad: “The wholesale societal movement towards a naturalistic explanation for everything...”
Let me stop there. See, in our world today, we want to explain everything through a naturalistic bent. If you do something wrong, well, you didn’t get sociologically worked in the right way. You didn’t get psychologically worked in the right way. Maybe physiologically you didn’t get some needs met, or whatever. Or maybe, pathologically, you didn’t get the right medicine.
And what’s going on is by explaining everything in naturalistic terms — if everything can be explained naturally, if everything can be explained just naturalistically, then what happens is, whether we realize it or not, it’s an attempt to make ethics and morals obsolete. Because what we can say is, “Well, that person didn’t really do that. It was sort of because they didn’t get this, this, this and this, then the choice that they made was really who they were.”
So, there’s really no moral or ethical bent to anything that we do. It’s just sort of who we are.
“So, don’t give me grief when I do what I am because it’s just naturalistically I can explain everything.”
No, no, no. When we go to the Bible as Christians — and, again, I’m not speaking to non-Christians here. If you’re a non-Christian here today, I am so glad you’re here. You are welcomed here. You can belong here before you believe. I’m speaking to those people who say, “I follow Jesus.” If we follow Jesus, we are told in Ephesians that there is a spiritual battle that is going on that you and I are involved in whether we realize it or not. And since there is a spiritual battle, that means that evil is real. That means that there are moral things and there are ethical things.
So, the moral and the ethical truths are not what I want to do or what I think I’m supposed to do or what I say, “This is who I am,” or whatever else. The moral and ethical rules of life come from the one who created us. They come from the King of kings and the Lord of lords. And so, what God says is right or wrong becomes what is right and wrong. And if we obey and do the things that God says, that is good. When we deviate from the things that God says, then that becomes evil and it’s a wrong way to go and it’s the wrong walk. Does that makes sense? Very important to understand. Evil is real.
Secondly, the spiritual battle reminds us that evil is real and it’s formidable. In other words, if you think you can just get up every day and not put on the armor of God and not think about what it looks like to really live out our lives, I can tell you you will give into culture at some point and you will eventually try to figure out how to make Christ work in the way culture works because the evil in the world is formidable. That’s why Paul says, “There’s rulers, authorities, cosmic powers and spiritual forces of evil.”
He writes this to say, “Hey, this is a big deal.”
Now, there’s two things that we can do wrong here. One is to overemphasize the spiritual world. We don’t want to do that. You’ve all met that person who’s like, “The devil made me do it.” You’ve been there, right? Maybe you did that. It’s like, “No. The devil didn’t make you do that. You shouldn’t have spent your money on that thing. That’s your problem, not the devil’s.”
But to overemphasize or underemphasize it, to act like it’s not real, that there is no such thing as this. Paul says, “This is formidable.” Now, he doesn’t explain this, so anybody — listen, trust your pastor on this. Anybody who says they know how all this works, they don’t. Just when they tell you that they do, just say, “Thanks,” and move on. Nobody knows how all this works. I know the guy on late night TV who sells you the book for five bucks and the holy water that they bottle at the Waffle House bathroom is going to tell you that this is how it works, but the bottom line is that’s not how. We don’t know how this works. We just have some little bit of stuff. The danger is for people to try to understand things that are beyond our understanding.
What we know, biblically, is that there is evil out there. We know that there are spiritual forces of wickedness out there. We know that there’s a battle out there and that’s enough. We don’t need to know how it works because we’ve been given provision to stand, not to fight, and we’ve been given the armor of God so that we can withstand. And that’s all that we need to know. But to think that we’re not going to be confronted with this stuff and that it’s not a formidable foe would be biblically inaccurate and we need to be aware of that.
Third. This is huge. A spiritual battle, knowing that we’re in one, enables us to understand certain spiritual dynamics. We’re told by Paul that there are schemes, methods, tactics of the devil, the liar, the slanderer and the accuser. I don’t have time to go into all of this because it would be another series, but what I can tell you is there are two ways — and they’re the predominant ways — that the devil gets into our lives with his schemes.
Here’s what he does: It’s through temptation and it’s through accusation. Let me explain how this works. This is huge. All the three services before this, people have said this was really great truth for them. They said this was a revelation for them. If you’re a believer — I’m not talking to unbelievers. I’m talking to believers.
If you’re a believer, the schemes the devil uses — and these are the two major schemes that he uses — are temptation and accusation. When the devil tempts you and me, what he does is he gets us to look at the grace and the mercy of God and elevate that and downplay the holiness and the righteousness and the judgment and the wrath of God to where we go, “Oh, well God loves me. I mean, why would He not want me to — I mean, I’ve worked hard. Why would He not want me to have these things? Why would He not want me to do this? This is sort of who I am. I mean, He created me, right? I’m going to do this things.”
And the temptation in the life of the believer is when we elevate it — and he does. He puts it in front of us — the love and mercy of God to the detriment, to the hiding of the fact that God is a holy God and, therefore, we are tempted as believers to do something thinking, “Well, this is what God would want,” or, “I did this enough,” or, “I tried enough, so I should get this. This is something that I should get.”
That is temptation. Accusation is the exact opposite. Accusation is when the devil holds up the holiness and the righteousness and the judgments of God and downplays the grace and the mercy of God and says, “Look at how holy God is and look at what you’ve done. You lied. You cheated. You did those things. You talked about. You did this. Look how holy God is. He could never, ever, ever use you. He could never, ever, ever love you.”
And why does he do these two things? Because if he could get you giving into temptation, and if he can get you believing accusation, then he can destroy you and I’s witness in the community for the Lord, and the Church, then, doesn’t become the witness that it should be. You can read the book of Revelation. In Ephesus, Jesus says, “I’m about to come and take your lamp stand out of your church because you’ve lost your witness in the community.”
That’s why Paul writes. He writes to you and me because there is a witness to be upheld. Paul sees the local church as the hope of the world. That the local church exemplifies who Jesus is or it doesn’t. And so, it’s so important to understand the logic of these epistle and what they’re trying to do.
And the last thing I’ll tell you as we get out of here is this: Our walk amidst and against the spiritual battle is part of living out redemptive history in 2018. Next year, it’ll be 2019. Next year, it’ll be 2020. If we lived in 1944, it’d be in 1944. How do we live out what Jesus has done for us in the Church in today’s world? Because we’re confronted with different things than they were. I can’t give you everything because I wouldn’t have time to do it, but I can give you a few things based on the context of what Paul has said here in Ephesians.
Number one. I can tell you that we ought to be honoring the marginalized. Why do I say that? Because Paul honors the women, the children and the slaves right before he goes into this spiritual battle that we’re in. We should be honoring the marginalized. And let’s just be honest here. It’s okay. It’s okay to admit it. The Church, primarily, in America, has done a really poor job of honoring the marginalized. We’ve judged them, we’ve condemned them, we’ve told them they’re going to hell, but we’ve not done a very good job of honoring the marginalized.
This is an area that if we’re going to look like Christ in our culture, the very first place that we should be is honoring the marginalized. And I can tell you Jesus did. In Luke 15 — go home and read it today. Just read it. It says, “The tax collectors and the sinners were all drawing near to hear Him.”
The sinners wanted to hear Jesus speak. I want to ask a question. Do the sinners in America want to come to the church to hear the pastor speak? If they don’t, we might be doing something wrong. Because do you know who grumbled? The religious people. They grumbled. I always ask the staff, or I’ll ask the people, “Has any church called and they’re upset at us being at First Friday?”
“Anybody criticizing us for doing some of the things that we’re doing? They don’t like the fact that we’re down there taking care of the kids and they’re selling beer and wine in the middle of all that stuff and we shouldn’t be a part of it? Is that what the religious people are saying? Then let’s go do more of it because when the religious people are critiquing it, that means we’re probably doing what God wants us to be doing.”
So, honoring the marginalized. In honoring the marginalized, we’re giving a voice to those who don’t have one. The Church should be giving voices to those that don’t have one. Do you know why? Because Jesus does. See, I didn’t have a voice until Jesus met me. You didn’t have a voice until Jesus met you. He gave you a voice, and He gave you a voice to tell people about the King of kings and the Lord or lords. It’s called the Gospel. And what we want to do is when we honor the marginalized, we give them a voice. When this happens — and this is looking like Jesus; a lot like Jesus — community revival takes place.
See, in these churches that were really living out the things that God had called them to do, it says they were turning the world upside down. It’s when we turn inward and we focus inward and we get focused about us rather than doing the things that God’s called us to do is when we get messed up. So, how do we live out redemptive history in 2018? Here’s a start. And if your Christianity struggles with some of this stuff, maybe your Christianity has been a little bit more informed by culture than it has by Christ because Christ comes for those on the margin.
And let me tell you something: I know He came for those on the margin because I and you, if we’re Christians, we were on the margin when Jesus found us, whether we want to admit it or not. We were as far away from God as anybody could be away from God. There’s no difference between us and anybody else. We can try to play that game in our mind, but every single one of us, in terms of the holiness of God, was as far away from God as we could be. We were on the margin when you consider the holiness of God, but He came to you and me. We need to make sure that we go out into the highways and the hedges and that we reach out into the marginalized of society. We don’t have to always condone everything that’s being done, but we can give them dignity and value because Jesus died for them.
Amen? So, I’ll leave you with this last thought: Instead of going home today and this week and going, “Okay. I’ve got a great job, I love my family, I love my spouse. If I get a little bit better job and make a little bit more money and maybe get a little better house and a little better car — and, man, God, I love You and I thank You for all the things You’re doing in my life. If You could help me get a little bit better at some things, it’d be awesome. I mean, I’m okay if You don’t, but I love You.”
Instead of looking at life that way, what if you said, “God, I love You and You’re first and You’re my Lord, which means my house, my family, my kids, my car, my job is place for me to demonstrate Your glory in such a way that stands distinct and different from the way our culture does it. I’m going to be a steward of all the things that you have given to me rather than doing all the things that I do and trying to get you into that. I’m going to put You first in everything that I do and realize I have an awesome opportunity to be an incredible shower of Your glory in everything that I do because it’s all Yours anyway.”
I think if we adopted that mindset as a church that we could see Lakewood Ranch and Sarasota turned upside down. Let’s put on the full armor of God, let’s stand against the schemes and the strategies of the devil and let’s walk in the victory that Christ has given to you and me and let’s make a difference in the world that we live in.
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You so much for Your love and Your mercy. I thank You for the wonderful people here at Grace Community Church. I thank You, Lord, that this church is making a difference in the community. In many ways, we’re doing a lot of these things. But Lord, I’m not going to settle for doing a lot of these things, Lord. I want to even ramp it up more. I want to see Your power and Your presence shake Lakewood Ranch. Lord, I want people at Pinchers coming to Jesus. I want people at the Trattoria coming to Jesus. I want people at the Mexican place coming to Jesus. Lord, the people at Pinchers, I want them to be Pinched for Jesus while they’re eating.
So, Lord, just make it happen in here. Let it start with us. Let it start with us realizing that we’re in a walk, and part of that walk is a spiritual battle and we’re going to put on the full armor of God. We’re going to walk as a Spirit-filled community. We’re going to live this thing out for You, Lord, to please You in such a way that people are going to see things differently, and many, many people are going to come to faith because we believe that that local church can genuinely be the most important institution in all of society.
So Lord, as we leave here today, we pray that You would lead, guide and direct us. We pray that You’d bring us back safely to when we meet again. And I pray, Lord, for every father in here that they would have a great day today, that You would just bless them abundantly as they leave, and Lord, we just thank You for all the things that You’re doing here at Grace. We love You for it. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”
Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. Happy Father’s Day. God bless you.
Sometimes being a Christian in today’s world feels a little bit like warfare. We try to equip ourselves to rise above and to walk forward, but the bullets still come. Sexuality, greed, distractions, prejudice, cultural expectations, politics. And it seems impossible to walk the Christian walk when we’re just trying to survive. And everybody’s watching. What if our strength could be the catalyst for others to rise? How do we shield ourselves against all the temptations? Will the enemy ever cease fire? What does it take to walk the walk?
Well, good morning to everybody and good morning, also, to those who watch via the mobile app and the internet. We’re in a series called “The Walk,” and I always try to do a real quick summary in case maybe this is your first time or if you’ve missed a couple of weeks.
We’re talking about what it means to really walk after the Lord, to look like Jesus in our walk, to be like Jesus and, more specifically, in 2018. And, you know, as I prepared for this series, I knew that this weekend, because of what I was talking about — you know, some things in Scripture are just self-intuitive. You’re just like, “Yeah, man. That makes sense.”
Other things require us to think a little bit because they’re a little counterintuitive to what we would normally do. And whenever a pastor talks about something like that when it’s a counterintuitive thing, sometimes it can be off-putting in some ways to people because they feel like, “Oh, I’m not doing that,” and maybe they leave guilty or whatever. Listen, the name of this church is not Guilt Community Church. It’s Grace Community Church. So, the last thing that we ever want to do is have anybody walking out of here guilty. We want people walking out of here free in Jesus’ name.
So, that being said, there are things that, as a pastor, you have to talk about. Sometimes they’re a little bit — they hit home. This weekend, I knew I was going to be talking about putting others first and loving on others and lifting others up. Sometimes that’s a little counterintuitive because out culture basically says, “I’m going to put me first and I’m going to get what’s mine first,” and it’s hard to think about putting others first. And sometimes we don’t know what to do with that.
So, I want to talk to you about that, and I’m going to elaborate a lot on a passage of Scripture and sort of tell you a history lesson and some stories to get to where we’re at. But I think when we’re done you’re going to go, “Wow. That is really cool.”
So, as I was reminiscing putting this series together — some of you know this and some of you don’t know this, but I spent roughly 18 years in the automotive industry with the luxury SUV Land Rover. During those 18 years, I had been in ministry for 6 years and then I got out of ministry. I don’t know if you know the stats, but the average seminary graduate stays in ministry for five years and they’re out and they never go back in. Well, I had lasted for six, and then I went out and I thought, “I’m never going back in ministry again, ever.”
And so, I got involved and did well. I started in sales, management, general manager and then a part owner of a store. And so, things went really well. And where I thought, “Hey, look at this, I ain’t going to go back in ministry at all. I’ve got it all together. I still love You God. I’m not sure I like You that much, but I’ve sort of got a thing where I’m at.” And not to realize here I thought I was doing what I was doing. God’s sneaky. See, God was just taking those 18 years to set me up for my next ministry assignment. You can’t beat God. Can I just tell you that? You just can’t. You may be watching by computer right now. You can’t win. He’s just — I don’t know. He just wins.
So, if you don’t hear anything else I say today, if you’re in here going, “I’m not sure what to do with God,” just know He wins. He knows what He’s doing. But anyway, in the automotive world, one of the things — a couple things that were important to me is, coming out of the sales side and not the service side, I realized that to keep business going, it wasn’t about how many cars we could sell, it was how well we treated the people that had purchased those cars. And what you wanted was repeat customers. And so, I told everybody at the store — and I believe this with all of my heart — that if we did the right things, if we put others first, if we treated others great, the business would take care of itself.
So, these vehicles that would come in the back of the shop, it was sort of cool because, see, I was a pastor, but my dad was a dentist and my family owned assisted living facilities. So, I was very involved in the medical professional world. Even though I wasn’t a medical professional, I was involved in that. And so, you know, you go into a doctor’s office or dental office and there’d be a file. Open it up. It’s Chip Bennett. Here’s the last time he got his teeth cleaned, or here’s when he came in for his annual checkup or whatever.
Well, in the office, we had the folders too, but these were vehicles. These vehicles were our patients. You could open it up and you could see when it needed some lung issues with its airflow and all that, and when it needed this here and a checkup for this, an oil change and whatever. You know? You could see that. So, you’d pull those files out, you’d look at it and when a car was sick, it would come into the service area. We’d bring it in and put it up on the rack, or the left. We’d put that thing up on the rack. Oftentimes, if it wasn’t that sick, we could sort of diagnose it and put some air in the tire or whatever else. But, sometimes, it was really sick.
So, what you would do when it was really sick is you would lift it up on the rack and you’d get underneath there and look. I didn’t get underneath there and look. I have no mechanical bones in my body. In fact, when Christmas comes around, Mindy just hires people to put the kids’ stuff together because that’s where I sort of — whatever lack of sanctification I have in my life comes out when I’m trying to put something together. So, I don’t know if you’re like me, but I am like that.
Anyway, we’d bring the car in. And I started thinking about putting others first and lifting others up. And I was thinking, “Man, that’s a great analogy.” Because, when we took care of people and we put them first and we really lifted up their stuff and did what needed to be done, everything else sort of took care of itself. And I believe that that’s such a fundamental Christian principle, although it’s hard to understand and hard sometimes to put in our life.
So, I want to talk about that this weekend. But, to do that, I want to tell you a little bit of a story and give you a little bit of a history lesson on some things that I think will help us get to the passage where we’re going to where the passage really makes sense. So, to do that, I’m going to talk out of the epistle to the Philippian church this weekend. But, before I get into the text that I’m going to use, I think we need to have a little bit of a lesson of how it all transpired, how that letter came about, and so on and so forth.
In the book of Acts, Luke records in Acts 16 that Paul and Silas came to a city called Philippi. Now, I’m of the impression that there’s no surplus of words in Scripture. Like if you were to ask me — if you don’t know me well or whatever and you were to say, “Chip, what do you think about Scripture?” Chip Bennett thinks Scripture is absolutely the Word of God. So, therefore, I believe that every word is important. Luke recorded, on the City of Philippi, he says, “It was a Roman colony.”
Now, for you and me, we just probably, if we’re honest, we’re reading the book of Acts and we read “Roman colony” and we just breeze right on through. We’re not even really thinking about what that may mean, what that may imply, but if you’d have lived in the first century and you’d have been the recipients of Acts, you would have definitely known what a Roman colony was. Nobody would’ve been confused. And it’s important to understand what a Roman colony was because we might, together, miss a lot of things in the epistle to the Philippians if we don’t understand some of the culture in which these books were written.
So, the Roman colonies, one of the fundamental aspects of living in a Roman colony is this: You could worship whatever god you wanted to worship. I mean, it was a polytheistic world. They had all kinds of gods and all kinds of stuff. But, once all the gods were sort of done and whatever, there was one god that was sort of above everything else, or one thing that got deference from the other gods, and that was a guy named Caesar. Caesar had become a god by these times. What had happened is that Caesar has realized that when they died — so, whoever followed the Caesar before them, that Caesar would die and they would deify that Caesar and they would become a god. Well, the Caesars that were living were like, “Why am I going to wait till I die? I’ll just go become a god now.”
And so, they started deifying themselves. So, Caesars had a title, and we may not realize this, but it’s important to understand when reading Scripture. Caesar had a title in Greek that was “kurios.” In our translation of “kurios,” that’s “lord.” Caesar was lord. And so, because Caesar was lord, if you lived in a Roman colony, you had to put Caesar above everything else. I mean, you could have other things, but that’s where the line was. You had to have deference to Caesar. So, if you saw his bust somewhere in town, you’d sort of bow or do whatever you did, or maybe offer a little sacrifice.
So, if you didn’t do that, you were on the outskirts of the Roman colony because that’s just sort of what it was. Well, because Caesar was lord and he’s a god, and Rome is this great country — and they felt like they were. They felt like everybody else were sort of barbarians and nobody else was good. So, the Roman world was looking at how they could continue to encroach into the rest of the world to take Caesar being lord. In that encroachment, they had to have some sort of statement that they made about why it would be better to do it like the Romans do than the way you do it.
And that was called the “euangelion.” That’s the Greek word. Euangelion. And we translate that “good news.” So, Caesar had a good news, and the good news was this: Rome is better than everybody else. Rome is exceptional. Rome is great. Rome’s all this stuff. What we want to do is to make sure that everybody understands that Caesar is lord and that there is a good news that needs to go out. And if you want to become Roman, that’s fantastic. But, if not, we’ll just conquer you militarily because we believe that what we’re doing is better. If we let you conquer us, then we lose the way that we lose. And that’s the way it was.
So, if you were going to live in a Roman colony, you had to know all this stuff. And, on top of that, there was a huge patriotism to these Roman colonies, especially Philippi. Philippi had been the place where many battles had been fought and Rome had won. But one of the real big ones was Octavian had defeated Mark Antony there, and Octavian had gone on to become Caesar Augustus. So, there was a real loyalty to the Roman world, to the Caesar is lord, to the good news. And then the way society worked in these Roman colonies was a system that you and I are not too familiar with. It was called a patron client relationship.
Here’s the way it worked. There was a hierarchy in the structure of Roman colonies. So, there were people that had more and people that had a little less. People that had a little less and then less. And so, if you were a patron, what you would do is you would go and do something or give something to a client. Now, the client could not accept the gift, but if they did accept the gift — they didn’t earn the gift, deserve the gift or anything like that. You just gave it to them. If they then took the gift, if they did, then there was an obligation back that they would do a favor or do something in return for the gift that was given.
So, for instance, if I saw somebody — let’s take me for instance. Maybe I didn’t have food and maybe somebody who had more than I did said, “Here is some cornmeal for your family.” If I took that gift, then what I would do is I would be expected to honor that person or do something for that person in return. And it may just be as little as going around town going, “Hey, the guy who gave me cornmeal, he’s a great dude. He’s awesome.” Because it was an honor and shame society. And so, you wanted to be looked on good rather than bad. But this was fundamental to the thing.
And so, everybody was in this social network of a patron client relationship. Everybody was tied in some way, some form throughout the whole Roman colony, and patriotism and the good news of Caesar and all that was so important and fundamental. So, therefore, if you lived back in the time of Paul in Philippi or any of the Roman colonies, your economics and your wellbeing were tied to your religion, your politics and your patriotism. Everything was tied into this for your economics and wellbeing. You could have a religion. You could worship the sun god, the moon god and everything else. You just had to make sure that you understood who Caesar was. You had to understand that Rome was the way, it was the best way and you were patriotic to that.
If you were not, then your economics and your wellbeing were in trouble. All that’s important why? Because of the story that we get in the book of Acts. Paul comes to Philippi, the Roman colony — and now we understand more about a Roman colony. Maybe we didn’t know that before. Maybe some of you all knew that. But if you didn’t know it, maybe you’ve learned something today. So, he comes to the Roman colony and when he goes to the town, he goes out to the riverbank where there are some women that are praying. One of the women that’s there, her name is Lydia. As Paul shares the good news of Jesus — and you should start hearing some words here that you go, “Okay. Well, hold on. This is interesting. These words are very interesting. They’re very chosen. They’re very specific. They’re very subversive.”
So, when he tells her about Jesus, what does she do? She accepts Jesus. And then what does she say? She says, “Come back to my house.”
Now, you and I would look at it as like, “She’s just being nice.” No, no. Because Paul has shared something with her that she doesn’t have, she is expected to respond. And her response is, “Come back to my house.” So, they go back to her house. They’re living there. Paul’s in Philippi. He’s doing his thing. One day, he’s out and about and there’s this little girl, this slave girl, that is demon possessed, we’re told, who’s sort of mocking Paul and Silas. Eventually, Paul gets tired of this person mocking him. He turns around and, in the name of Jesus, casts the demon out.
And then we’re told by Luke — and this is really important. These are really important facts, especially knowing what we just know — that the girl made the owners money. We’re told that. She was a money maker. Okay? And because she was a money maker, that means that they could probably do things for others which got things back for them which means other people were tied in. There was a network. So, when the money goes, the whole patron client relationship goes with that money.
And what do they do? They go to the magistrates and they say, “These people are ruining our customs. They’re messing up the way we do life. They’re messing up everything.”
So, what do the magistrates do? Well, they strip Paul and Silas, beat them and throw them in prison. What a great day for Paul and Silas, right? So, they’re in prison. And I don’t know about you all, but if I got beat, stripped and thrown in prison, I’d probably be going, “Man, God, how come You’re letting this happen to me?”
They didn’t. They were real Christians. They’re signing and praising God in the prison cell. I know that none of you all would be like me. It’s that 11:45 heathen service that would do that. So, they’re praising God and everything. Everybody in the prison cell is freaking out. Well, God shows up and blows open all the doors. And, of course, what you would think is that everybody would run, but they don’t because they’re freaked out. Like, “I’ve never heard anybody singing and praising God after they’ve been beaten.”
And so, the Philippian Jailer runs in. He thinks everybody’s gone, which means he’s going to die because that’s his job. He has to keep everybody there. If he loses anybody, they kill him. So, he gets a sword. He’s ready to kill himself. Paul goes, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Time out, man. Everybody’s here.”
The Philippian Jailer’s like, “What? Everybody’s here? This must be a miracle.”
And so, in the Chip Bennett version, he’s like, “I want to get into whatever it is that you guys got. I’m in. What do I got to do to be saved, man? What do I got to do to get into this thing?”
And Paul’s response is huge. It doesn’t seem to be so huge to you and me if we don’t understand that background of this. It’s huge. He says, “Believe on the kurios, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Well, that’s a big deal for the Philippian Jailer because if his loyalty’s not to Caesar anymore, if his loyalty’s to Jesus, that’s going to create a really big issue for his life in every way. So, these words are important. So, Paul starts the Philippian church with some women, with some prisoners and the Philippian Jailer. Don’t you love the way the Bible’s just so real? I mean, it’s like, “Yes. I could be a part of that church.”
So, all good. Then some years go by. Paul started this church in Philippi and Paul is in probably Rome in prison. The Philippians are undergoing suffering because living the way they’re living is different. Because here’s the reality: They’re now a heavenly colony. See, they’re no longer a Roman colony. That’s why Paul talks about their citizenship is in heaven. This all makes sense when you understand how all of this breaks down. And no longer is Caesar lord, but Christ is Lord. And no longer is there the euangelion of the kurios, Caesar, there’s the good news of Jesus Christ. And no longer is the patriotism for the Roman colony. It’s the loyalty to the Lord and the good news and all that. And the patron client relationship has been redefined. No longer are they trying to figure out how they can get everything they want in society. Now what they’re doing is they’re trying to honor God who has now become their patron by giving them grace and allowing them to be in the heavenly colony that they’re now living out the Gospel and trying to live out the things in honoring the fact that God has done what He’s done for them.
So, as the Philippians are trying to understand, “How do we do this? How do we live in the world but we’re not really of the world even though we’re in the world? And we’re no longer really a Roman colony, we’re a heavenly colony. And that’s going to put us at odds.”
Which is the great fundamental issue of Christianity is trying to put culture and Christ together. They don’t work. They’ll never work ever, ever, ever, ever. We try to, but they won’t. We will compromise the Gospel if we try to put culture and Christianity together. They have to stand alone because His kingdom is not of this world. Period. End of story. It’s not of this world which is why it’s crazy the way we turn love for the enemies and turn the other cheek. We would never do that in this world. But see, we’re not called to be like this. We’re called to be this.
So, the Philippians are undergoing the reality of what that looks like in their life. They’re struggling. Some of them maybe get thrown in jail. Some of them maybe are losing things. They’ve lost their jobs. They’ve lost all kinds of stuff because they’re living, now, the way they’re supposed to live. Well, they’re going, “We don’t like this.”
I mean, does anybody like suffering? They’re like, “Man, we don’t like this.”
So, what they do is they decide that they’re going to take up an offering because they know Paul’s in prison. They’re going to send an offering to Paul which would then start the patron client deal because it was all pervasive. So, if they send the offering, then Paul sort of is obligated in some ways, if he takes the offering, to do whatever. So, they send the offering and Epaphroditus to Rome to Paul in prison. And Epaphroditus gets sick on the way there, but he finally gets there, gives the stuff to Paul and Paul sends Epaphroditus back because what they’re really wanting is they want Timothy. They want Timothy to come to Philippi to help them out.
Paul doesn’t send Timothy. He sends Epaphroditus and he sends the letter that we have to the Philippians. So, he starts off the letter as it comes to them and he says in Philippians 1:5, “Hey, you guys are in a partnership with the Gospel. You’re partners in the Gospel. And because you’re partners in the Gospel and you understand how that works and what God’s done for you and your response to God, I’m confident, because I know you’re in this walk that you’re doing these things, I’m confident that what God has started in you He will bring to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.”
He says, “So, this is good. But I know you’re suffering. I know things are going on. So, let me talk to you a little bit about me.”
Paul says, “I’m in prison too.”
Shocker. Everywhere Paul went, he was in prison. So, he says, “I’m in prison. Here’s the deal,” in Philippians 1:12, “believe it or not, even though I’m in prison and I’m chained, the Gospel’s not chained.”
I mean, we would think naturally that if I was chained, that I couldn’t do whatever it is that God wanted me to do. In other words, if I was in affliction or I was in bondage or things weren’t going, we have this mindset that everything sort of has to be free for things to happen. Paul’s going, “Man, it’s not like the world. I’m in prison and I’m in chains, but the Gospel’s not chained. Man, the Gospel is going down the corridors of the Praetorian Guard and people are getting converted and all of this stuff. So, actually, what’s happened to me is really a good thing. It’s furthering the Gospel.”
That would be crazy if you’re looking at it from this world. It wouldn’t make any sense. But if you’re looking at it from the heavenly colony perspective, it makes tons of sense. And so he says to them, “Look, I just want to set this up. Sometimes, the things that are going on God can be using for good things, and so on and so forth. So, here’s the reality: I’m in prison. I could die. It could cost me my life. And, honestly, at this point I’ve been in prison so many times and gone through so many things. I’ve been beaten and shipwrecked and stoned. Not like in California, but with rocks. Not Colorado and all that stuff.”
So, he says, “All these things have happened to me. If I were to live, that’s Christ, but to die is gain. I could just go home and it would be cool. But (Philippians 1:24) for me to stay here is more needful for you.”
So, he started the patron client thing. “I’m doing something for you.” He says, “So, my response, what I want from you is I want your conduct...” — that’s a political term, how people walked as Roman citizens. He goes, “I want your conduct, since you’re heavenly colonists, to be worthy of the Gospel. That’s what I want from you. I want you to walk worthy to the Gospel and not being terrified by your opponents, the people that are going to do you wrong.”
Listen, hear your pastor and just hear his heart here. Whenever we get scared and frightened by the opponents and the things that go on in our world, we need to stop for a minute and take a gut check and realize this world is not all that there is. We don’t have to be frightened and live in fear because nobody can take your life. Nobody can end your life. If you are a Christian, you have eternity with God ahead of you. And it should change your whole perspective.
So, Paul says, “Hey, I know you’re going through some suffering and whatever, but don’t be frightened by your opponents because when they’re actually doing these things to you, that’s a sign that you’re in. That’s a sign of your salvation and it’s a sign of destruction to them. So, you’re engaged in the same thing. We’re all engaged in the same thing.”
So, he said, “After I said all those things and made all that, now here’s what I want to say. So, I’ve told you all these things. I’ve started off the way I started off. The suffering, and God can use it and all of this stuff. And I’m in chains and you’re in chains. God can do this and I’m going to stay for your account. I really want you to live this thing out. I really want you to have a manner worthy of the Gospel. I don’t want you to get frightened by your opponents. I want you to live this thing out. You are a heavenly citizen. You are not an earthly citizen. So, based on all of that — so because I know you’re going through difficulties, and all of us go through difficulties. So, what do we do when we’re going through the difficulties?”
He says, “So, here’s what I’m going to tell you. So, if there’s any encouragement in Christ,” — guys and gals here at Philippi, and now guys and gals here at Grace, or those watching via the internet and mobile app. “If there’s any encouragement in Christ — I’ve told you all these things — if there’s any comfort from love, any participation of the Spirit, any affection or any sympathy, if any of that is true in any way, shape or form, I want you to complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. I want everybody focused here. Everybody focused because we’re going through difficulties. How are we going to get through the difficulties? How are we going to get through the problems? How are we going to get through the sufferings?”
He’s like, “So, everything I’ve said, focus here. If any of the things that we believe about Jesus are true — and I want everybody to be of the same mind and same accord — here’s what I want you to do: I want you to do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit.”
Which is counterintuitive because when things are going wrong, the first thing that we think of is “me.” The first thing that we think of is, “I want to get what I need to get, and then I can worry about others.”
That’s the way the world works. Paul says, “In light of all this, so — I’ve told you all this stuff. So, if any of this is true, here’s what I want you to do: Do nothing from selfish ambition.”
That is a word that could mean selfishness. That is a word that can mean jealousy. That’s a word that says, “You know what? I’m looking at everything and I’m looking at the circumstances and situations. I’m going to get what I need because I’m not going to continue to live in this life. I’m going to go get it and make it happen.”
Paul says, “Hey, listen, when you’re going through all of this stuff and everything’s going on, listen to me — so, if you’ve heard what I’ve said, this is what I want you to do. Don’t do it the way the world does it. Don’t look at it and go, ‘Well, I should deserve this. I’ve worked hard. I’ve done all these things.’ Don’t do anything from selfish ambition or conceit.”
Listen to what he says: “But in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
You go, “I’m not going to do that. Why would I? I mean, I’ve got to take care of me. Me first. I mean, that just makes sense.”
That’s exactly right. In the world, it is me first. But not to Paul. Not to Paul in the middle of suffering. Not to Paul in the middle of difficulty. Not to Paul. He says, “Don’t do any of that stuff the way the world does it. You’re not like the world anymore. You’re a different place. You’re a different culture. You’re in the Gospel. You’re citizens of heaven. You’re a heavenly colony. Jesus is your Lord. You’ve got good news. You’re loyal to that. God’s your patron and you’re His client. He’s going to take care of you.”
He says, “So, count others...” — he didn’t say they are. He says, “Count others more significant than yourselves.”
And do you see what this does here? This is faith. See, faith isn’t required if I can get everything the way I want it and then I can help others. We convince ourselves that that’s good, godly Christianity. That’s not. That’s the way the world does it. Good, godly Christianity says, “I’m going to count others first before I count myself first.”
He says, “Not only that, let each of you look not only to his own interests,” because he knows all of us are going to be looking to our own interests, “but also to the interests of others.
And then what does he say in Philippians 2:5? He says, “Hey, let the mind among you be the same that was in Jesus.” He says, “Jesus was fully God. He could’ve totally pulled at His Godness. He could’ve grasped at His godness. He could’ve said, “It’s all about me.”
But what does He do? He gave Himself and became a man and He served others. And what did God do? He lifted Him up and gave Him a name that’s above every name. Which means for God, when we serve others and we reach out to others, God will lift us up and God will do the things that we’re looking for. We’ll never have the peace and the joy and the abundance when we try to do it in our own strength. It’s when we trust God by faith in the difficulties of life by pouring ourselves into others that God takes care of us on the other side. I know that’s tough. I know. I know. That’s why it can be a little tough.
But I can give you some examples of how this is absolutely true. I’ve had staff before, they’re tired. I mean, if you’re around here long enough, there’s a lot of things going on. Sometimes staff’s tired. A First Friday will show up. Everybody’s tired. They’ll go out there and serve and love on others. They’ll come back here after First Friday and they’re pumped up with energy. Why? Because it shouldn’t work that way. It shouldn’t work that if I’m tired and I go give to others — what should happen is I should go take a nap. Somebody needs to send me the spa card to the massage place. You know what I’m talking about? I mean, I need to go take care of myself. That’s what we think about.
Jesus says, “Hey, listen, if you’ll...” — that’s why He says, “Love God, love people.”
Everybody’s like, “What about me?”
“Love God, love people.”
“What about me?”
“Love God, love people.”
“I don’t know, Chip. I don’t want to deal with that stuff because people may take advantage of me.”
“Sometimes I may be a doormat.”
“Sometimes they’ll do things wrong to me.”
They will. Who are you trusting? Are you trusting yourself or are you trusting God? See, God’s only pleased by one thing, and that’s faith. By loving others, that creates a faith moment for you and me rather than a knowledge moment or an “I’m going to get what I want” moment. And it’s so easy to get wrapped up in culture and miss out the whole beautiful blessings of what faith can do in your life by doing it God’s way rather than our way.
So, let’s do a couple of take-homes here and some diagnostic thinking here. When we lift others up and put others first, we show our allegiance to Christ and are therefore living as authentic citizens of heaven. The Latin term is “sine qua non.” The “not without which.” In other words, you can’t have something without this. Christianity does not really, fundamentally exist without a God that reaches out to others. Not a self-serving God, but a loving God, a gracious God. And if we’ve been touched by that grace, the response for us should be to love others. Even people that we don’t maybe like, even our enemies, even those that have smacked us on the other cheek.
And we go, “Well, that’s not going to work because that’s not the way...”
No. That’s right. That’s not the way the world works, but that’s the way citizens of heaven work. It’s called faith. It’s called, “I trust God.” It’s called, “I believe that I can love my enemy because the world would tell me I can’t love my enemy because the enemy may take me out. But I can love my enemy because two things can happen. One, by loving my enemy, they may become a Christian and become my friends. By loving enemies, even if they do take my life, they can’t because this world is not all that there is.”
So, see, when we lift others up and put others first, we’re really showing our allegiance to Christ and we’re living as authentic citizens of heaven. The second thing I would tell you here — and this is important — is that by lifting others up and putting others first, we’re authenticating that the good work in which God has started in us will be brought to completion. See, everybody’s always worried. You hear it all the time. You know? You talk to people and they’re always worried about their salvation. Because, see, we’ve framed salvation as a “what we do” thing. You know?
“Well, you’re not a Christian because you did this.”
Listen, there’s nothing that you can do to earn your salvation. So, it would only make sense, if we’re looking at this in terms of a meritorious work, if there’s nothing that I can do by works that can gain my salvation, then there’s no works that I’m not going to do that are going to lose my salvation. It doesn’t make any sense the way that works if we’re thinking about it logically.
What we’re looking at for salvation is not how well I get everything right, because none of us are going to get there. What we’re looking at is, “Has our heart had a change somewhere in it where somewhere along the way we realized, whether we do it good or not, whether we’re there or not, that we really should be putting others first and not ourselves first?”
That is the authentication that you have really been touched by the Almighty God, because that’s what’s important to Him. Which means, theoretically, the most important person in the room is the person we’re next to. It’s not me. It’s you. It’s not me. It’s the person next to me. Can you imagine if we loved people the way we were supposed to love people? Can you imagine if we were compassionate to everybody? Not just the ones that we like or the ones that are like us. Can you imagine if we understood people think differently? Shocker on that one, right, that other people might think differently than we do?
Have you ever sat down and talked to somebody who thinks differently than you do? And you walk away going, “Wow. Maybe they’re right.”
I mean, it’s amazing how when we actually sit down and talk how we can learn things about people. Or having a servant’s heart. The reality here is that if there is the desire — and I’m not talking about you get it right all the time. None of us get it right. But there should be a desire in all of us to want to love and serve others. That comes from the Spirit of God that lives within you and me if we’re His children. That’s what He wants. He wants us to be people that love one another. It’s just part and parcel of being a Christian. It’s just who we are. And we can even nuance that and try to redefine it, but that’s not the way it is. It really is a love towards others. Not just the ones we like or the ones that do it the way we do it. It’s a genuine love when you have to get outside of yourself and love someone that is beyond you or someone that you can’t even stand or someone that’s done you wrong. That is uniquely Christian. That is uniquely Jesus.
And the third thing, because it’s the question, “But what about me? I mean, come on, man. What about me? Love God. Love others. What about me? I mean, if I do all this I may put myself in a situation. This doesn’t — what about me?”
Here’s the answer. And it’s a faith answer. And it’s the truth. God’s got our back because He’s the patron and we’re the client. He’s got your back. I could sit here over and over and over again and tell you stories about how people have selflessly given themselves to others and, all of a sudden, everything else that they needed came right along beside it. And what we do — let’s be honest — is we even try to get into that game of going, “Well, maybe if I do a little bit here, maybe I can get some things that I really want.”
You know? No. Jesus says this: “If you will just trust me.”
Just trust. It’s like every area of your life. Our social lives, our financial lives. Everything we look at. It’s a matter of do I trust God? Do I have faith? The only area that we could have faith in our relationship with others is when we put others first and not ourselves first. That is a faith gesture. And so, what about me? The answer is God’s got your back. If you and I will do what God has asked us to do, He has our back every single time. And it’s not a peace and a joy that we can get from just doing good. It’s not a peace and a joy that we can get from having something and giving out of our abundance. It is a peace and a joy that when we’re going through the grinder, rather than putting me first, I put somebody else first, what we experience is a supernatural peace, a supernatural joy and a supernatural abundance. That’s what we’re all looking for, and that takes us having faith and putting others first in our walk with God.
Amen? So, after that, I’m going to just drop the clicker. It’s just a truth. I mean, listen, here’s where my heart’s at. I don’t expect everybody to go out of here and do this perfectly. We all struggle with this. I’m just asking you to say, “God, let me take one step forward here. Let me just take one step forward at maybe getting outside of myself. Just one step forward of maybe getting involved in something that’s beyond me, of loving someone that’s not like me. Just one step forward.”
Let me tell you something: When you take that step you’ll find out — see, 11 people stayed in the boat. They didn’t take the step. Peter took a step and he walked on water. He didn’t walk on water that great, but at least he walked on water. At least, in heaven, he could go, “Ha ha! I was on the only dude that walked on water. None of you all walked on water. I took a step. Ha!”
Everybody else can go, “Well, yeah. But you sunk.”
“Oh, no, no. I walked on water for a little bit, man. I was walking on water.”
Listen. I’m telling you. Trust me here. Take a step and watch the miraculous that God does when you put others first in your life. Let’s pray.
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You so much for the truth of Your Word. Lord, You know my heart. The last thing I want to do is make anybody feel bad or guilty about some of this stuff. I know all of us can struggle from time to time with this. Lord, my heart is just to be honest with Scripture that this is what Scripture says. And then, Lord, You’ve got to do what You do.
So, Lord, what I’m asking is that just all of us here would put down our walls, put down our defenses, put down all that stuff and just say, “God, You know what? Help me take a step. Help me just move a little bit more towards where You want me to go in this area of my life.”
Lord, by Your Spirit that lives within us, Lord — not in our strength and our own trying to run the hill. But, Lord, really, honestly submitting ourselves to You and saying, “God, work in me to give me a better heart to really put others first in my life, Lord, and to trust You that You really do have my back.”
Lord, I believe with all of my heart that if any of us will take that just little step, You’ll meet us in such ways, Lord, that will blow us away. And that is my prayer for the church this weekend, Lord, is that You would help us in our walk learn to put others first and to lift others up and to realize that when we do that, You truly will have our back.
So, Lord, as we leave here today, I pray that You would continue to watch over us, lead and guide us, bring us back safely to when we meet again. And I pray, Lord, that You would continue to help us to be the church that You have called us to be, and that is the church to reach the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. We love You, we thank You and we praise You. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”
Give the Lord a big hand clap and tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody.
Sometimes being a Christian in today’s world feels a little bit like warfare. We try to equip ourselves to rise above and to walk forward, but the bullets still come. Sexuality, greed, distractions, prejudice, cultural expectations, politics. And it seems impossible to walk the Christian walk when we’re just trying to survive. And everybody’s watching. What if our strength could be the catalyst for others to rise? How do we shield ourselves against all the temptations? Will the enemy ever cease fire? What does it take to walk the walk?
Well, good morning to everybody and, also, good morning to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. I was reading a story just a couple of weeks ago, and it was interesting. I mean, it probably wasn’t interesting when it was going on. It’s just sort of humorous, but it’s not super funny. But it just reminds us of a lot of things.
There was this couple that was getting married on a Saturday night at 5:00. At about 4:45, the groomsmen started looking around and they couldn’t find the groom. So, there’s 15 minutes until showtime. They’re like, “Where is he?” So, they start calling on the cellphone and they realize the cellphone is there in the room where all the groomsmen are at. They’re like, “Where did he go?”
So, they do what most men would do. They decide to start doing the search party throughout the area and out into the ceremony area, the church and everything. And so, they’re walking around probably looking like CIA guys looking for somebody important. And people start realizing that something’s up because all the groomsmen are out walking around. And so, this sort of cascades over, even into the bridal chamber. It’s like, “He’s not here.”
And so, it’s 4:50, 4:55, 5:00, no groom. And everybody’s having that moment where, I mean, it’s frantic to say the least. And so, about 5:02, the groom comes running in. He’s just sweaty and he’s wiping off everything. They’re like, “Dude, what is up? Cold feet? What’s up?”
He’s like, “No, man. I’m so sorry. I left my phone here. I was frantic. I realized that I had left the rings back in the hotel room and needed to go get them.”
Well, crisis averted. Everything happened good. But you can imagine in that moment what it is like. In that moment, there was what we would call tension, right? Everybody knows what tension is. You can imagine the tension that would’ve been in that room at that particular moment. When we think of tension, though, and we think of that moment because we can all think about it. Like, “Oh, man. That would’ve been terrible to have been there at 5:00, especially if you were the bride. Like, ‘Is he going to show up?’”
We feel that way. When we feel tension, we want to get rid of it. It’s like we don’t like tension. In fact, we’ve got a whole bunch of things that we call tension things because they’re no good. Like tension headaches, marital tension, political tension. Because when we think of tension, we think of something that we don’t like. It’s like we want to get the tension out of our life. And so, we’re in a process here and a series called “The Walk.” We’re talking about walking with the Lord, we’re talking about walking after the Lord and what it means for you and I to walk.
What I want to talk about this particular weekend is something that’s literally taken me probably 30 years to get to this position in my life. And I believe, with all of my heart, that this can be the most freeing moment for many of us, if not all of us, in some ways, this weekend, because this is important. So, what I want to talk about is this idea of tension. This is where a lot of Christians go wrong because we want to get rid of tension rather than maybe thinking, “Hey, you know what? Maybe, just maybe, there are parts about tension that are okay.”
And so, what I want to talk about this weekend is to help us learn to walk in the tension of the mystery. That there is a mystery to our faith. That mystery leads to tension. What we’ve done in the world today — because we don’t like tension, we want to get rid of it. And so, what we’ve done is we’ve developed this either/or mentality of popular theology, and I’m convinced it’s lead to disastrous consequences in our walk with God. What we do is we want to try to own something so it can make us feel better. We don’t want to live in the tension. We don’t want to live in that tension of like, “I don’t know.”
We want to sort of solve the problems. So, what we do is go to extremes on one side or the other, and it doesn’t really, really alleviate the tension. What it does is it gives us a system that we can convince ourselves that the tension doesn’t exist because we don’t want to live in the tension. But to walk after the Lord means that you and I are going to have a tension because there is a mystery. And let me explain how this works. If you’ve been around church long enough, if you haven’t gotten into an argument about whether God’s sovereign or people are free, you just haven’t been in the right group. You know what I’m talking about? I mean, that’s just a fact.
And so, here’s what we do: We go, “Well, God’s sovereign, right? I mean, Psalm 115:3 says our God is in the heavens and does whatever He pleases. Right? Ephesians 1 says that He works everything after the council of His own will. Romans 8 says that He works all things together for good. Right? So, isn’t He sovereign? I mean, doesn’t He know what’s going on? Doesn’t He say, ‘I harden those who I harden and soften those who I soften? Isn’t He sovereign?’”
And then somebody comes along and goes, “Yeah, but if God is so sovereign that He’s controlling everything, then aren’t we puppets? If we’re puppets, then how does that work?”
And somebody goes, “No. It can’t be that, so it’s got to be over here. We’ve got to be free. God’s really probably got some things He can’t really figure out or whatever.”
And so, rather than going, “Hey, both of these things can be true at the same time even though I can’t understand them, even though there is a mystery here,” we want to go to one extreme or the other and go, “No, no. I’m over here. No. You’re over there.”
Because I want to alleviate the tension. I want to have something that I know. I want to have something that I can master. And let me tell you something. When you think and I think that we can master God, or we think that we’ve got God figured out, what we have in our hands is an idol. We do not have the Living God in our hands at that particular point. So, there’s a tension.
How about this one? The Law of the Old Testament and the Gospel of the New Testament. You want to get into a fight? That’s a perennial issue. I mean, there was a guy named Marcion in the early church that said, “The Old Testament? Chuck it. It’s no good. Whoever that God is in the Old Testament, he ain’t the God of the New Testament. We’re going to stay in the New Testament.”
Believe it or not, there’s plenty of people that feel that way today. It’s just the Old Testament. They don’t even know what to do with it. Just sort of — that’s crazy. Like, shellfish? I like Red Lobster, so I don’t know why in the world that that’s the way it is. And then you get people over here that go, “No, it’s the Gospel. It’s the Gospel. There’s none of that.”
And so, what we do is we create these tensions, like the Gospel’s good, the Law is bad. The Law is good — all this crazy stuff that we do. But can I tell you something? Did you know that the whole entire Roman Empire was won to Jesus out of the Old Testament? There was no New Testament. They preached Jesus out of the Old Testament. So, there’s people today that say we’ve got to unhitch from the Old Testament, we’ve got to push it away. No, no, no. That’s not true. See, what we want to do is we want to alleviate the tension. So, what we do is we go to one extreme or the other to try to get away from the tension when, in reality, if we’re going to walk with God, there’s going to be a tension in the mystery of our faith.
How about this one? Grace and works. If you ain’t had a battle on that one at a supper club, you’re in the wrong supper club. You know what I’m talking about? I mean, that’s just — we do. We go, “Well, I was in church and it didn’t work out. People told me that I needed to live right and I couldn’t live right and it didn’t work right, so now I just want to believe in grace. All grace, all grace, all grace. Don’t tell me what to do. Don’t tell me anything. Don’t give me that stuff. It’s all grace, grace, grace, grace, grace.”
And then people over here go, “That sounds like cheap grace. That doesn’t sound like biblical stuff.”
“Ahh, don’t give me those works. Don’t try to put that stuff on me.”
“Yeah. But doesn’t the Bible say that we’re supposed to live a holy and righteous life? Doesn’t the Bible say that we’re supposed to love people, do things and whatever? Doesn’t it say we’re supposed to walk worthy of the calling that we do?”
And we just go, “No, no, no.”
We’re going to go to one extreme or the other. And that’s what we do because we want to alleviate the tension. But the fact of the matter is there is a tension in the mystery. How about this one? Kingdom now or kingdom later? People go, “It’s finished.”
“Okay. Well, what’s finished?”
“Okay. It’s finished. Great. So, what about sickness?”
“Well, it’s finished.”
“Really? Then why do people die still? Why do people still...”
It’s funny, too, because people go, “Oh, everything, everything. You should be healed of everything.”
How come those people that say that never come and pray for me for my glasses? Or how about the fillings that my own dad put in my teeth? I mean, that filling — that’s a result of the fall, so why not just pray that God would give me a new tooth? I mean, it’s like we don’t even think about those things. So, is it kingdom now? Is everything now? Is everything now? Like, everything now? Or things later? How does that work out?
And what we want to do is we go to one extreme or the other. You’ve got people that go, “It’s all now, all now, all now,” or people that go, “It’s all future, all future, all future,” and they fight about it because they want to control. They don’t want to deal with the tension. But the fact of the matter is the sweet spot is right there in the middle that we can’t understand fully. There is a tension in the mystery.
And so, we want to talk about how all of us can learn to walk in the tension of the mystery. This will free you in so many ways that the other things will not free you. What they’ll do is they’ll give you a system that you can believe in, but it’s not going to solve the problem. It’s not going to make it go away. You can sort of try to intellectualize it, you can sort of try to say all this stuff and you can quote all kinds of Bible passages, but the fact of the matter is there is a mystery to our faith. And learning to live in the tension of the mystery is probably one of the most freeing things that we can do.
So, let’s look at that here and let’s go into this. I want to teach. I’m going to be Teacher Chip today. If I get a little excited, I may move into Preacher Chip, but I’m going to stay Teacher Chip for the most part because I really believe this is something that can change your life in a massive way.
First of all, to walk in the tension — and we all are going to walk in the tension — requires us to understand the difference between the practical and the positional aspects of our walk. This is so important. Lean in and hear this. As a Christian — and, listen, if you’re here today and you’re not a Christian, it’s totally cool. You can sit here and hang out with us. You can belong here before you believe. We’re so glad that you’re here.
But maybe you might hear some things today that you’ve never heard before. Maybe you might go, “Man, you know what? Maybe I want to be in on this thing.”
We would love for you to be in on this thing, but just hang out with us and enjoy yourself because we’re glad you’re here. But, if you’re a Christian, this is true of you no matter whether you think it’s true or not, whether you want to believe it’s true or not. Whatever you want to do, this is the truth. You have a practical side to your Christianity and you have a positional side to your Christianity. Both are true at the same time, both overlap to some degree, and both don’t overlap to some degree. But they are both true at the same time. The practical aspects of our Christianity is what we experience now. And many of us, if I were to say, “Hey, could somebody give a testimony about how they had a temper and their temper’s gotten better because they’ve been serving the Lord and they’ve been praying and they’ve been going to studies and all this stuff?”
And you can see that the Lord is working in your life. We call that sanctification. You can see that the Lord is really doing some things in your life. Most Christians that have been in church for a long period of time can say, “Yes, there are some things that I have experienced in my life that God has done.”
That is the practical side of our Christianity, and it’s what we see. We can see it. We can feel it. You can see it in my life. I can see it in your life. It’s something that’s practical. It’s right here in the world right now for everybody to see. And that is true of our lives as Christians. There’s a practical experience that we have. But there is also a positional aspect of our Christianity. And the positional aspect of the Christianity is not necessarily all that we’re experiencing now. The positional side of our Christianity is who we are in Christ. That the Scriptures say that in Christ you’re forgiven. You’re holy. You’re righteous. And you start going, “Yeah, I don’t really feel that way over here.”
Okay. That’s true because there’s a practical side and a positional side. The positional side is something that we embrace by faith. So, check this out here. Put these together. Here’s the way it works. So, in Chip Bennett’s life, here I am trying to walk — that’s the way the Scriptures talk about our relationship. John says we walk in the light. We don’t walk in darkness. Paul says, in Ephesians 4:1, that we walk worthy of the calling in which we were called. He says, in Colossians 2:6, that if you’ve received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him.
There’s this idea of walking. It’s never a decision. It’s never a, “Hey, did you believe in Jesus?”
It’s never that. It’s a walk. It’s a relationship. Jesus is not after a decision. He is after a relationship, and there is a walk. So, as we’re walking in life, we have things that we experience now and things that are true of who we are, but some of those things that are true of who we are are not being experienced now. Which means as we’re walking towards becoming all that we are, and we’re not all that we are in the now, that’s going to create tension. And tension’s okay. It’s okay.
In fact, John tells us this. Listen to what John says. John says, “Beloved, we are God’s children now,”
Practically. I’m a child of God. I’m 100% a child of God. John says, “Do you want to know if you’re a Christian? Believe in Jesus and you can know. You can know that you have eternal life. You can know that you’re a child of God. Experience it now.”
“Beloved, we are God’s children now,”
Practically. Look what he says, though. It’s very important.
“And what we will be has not yet appeared;”
So, we live in the tension of here’s what I’m experiencing right now, and it doesn’t look like everything that God says I am. And that creates a tension because I want to walk towards that, but what I realize is that that isn’t going to always be fully here because everything that I’m going to be has not yet appeared. And that creates a tension that we want to resolve. And we run to our theological camps to try to resolve it. There’s a beauty in the tension. There is a tension to the mystery.
And here’s what’s beautiful. He says, “I’m God’s child now, and what I fully am going to be hasn’t yet appeared.”
This is great: “But we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.”
There’s a beauty here. There’s a beauty. And so, let’s work this out here in a way that makes sense. We’ve got the practical and the positional. Let me try to explain how this works. Every single one of us, whether you want to admit it, whether you want to own it, whether you want to sort of theologize yourself out of it, whether you want to act like, “Well, that’s not really what it is,” here’s the reality: Every single one of us, whether we want to admit it or not, we still sin. Period. End of story.
If you don’t believe that, I’ve seen you drive on University. Every single one of us. 1 John says if you say you have no sin, you’re a liar and the truth is not in you. Paul says in the present tense to Timothy, “I’m the chief of sinners.” Not, “I was,” but, “I am the chief of sinners.”
We sin. Every single one of us. Every single one of us still sin. And sometimes we don’t even know that we sin. Sometimes we do things that we don’t even know that we did. We still sin. But, at the same time, we are as holy as holy could be. I mean, you have absolutely no sin. Jesus paid for everything that you and I will ever do. Hebrews 10 says that He paid for sin once for all and He sat down at the right hand of the Father.
And you go, “Whoa. How does that work?”
Right? How does that work? It’s like, “I’m not this, but I am. It doesn’t look like it though.”
There’s a tension. It’s the tension of the mystery. Or how about this? Guilt. Most Christians still feel guilt. They do. You can tell them they shouldn’t feel it, and you can tell them whatever. They do. Feelings are valid. If you feel a certain way, you feel a certain way. You can’t tell people not to feel that way. But Scripture says there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. You go, “Well, how does that work?”
It’s the tension of the mystery. It’s where we live. And what we want to do is we want to go to one or the other. We want to separate this out so that we can own it and not live in the tension, because the tension is part of the walk.
Or how about this? “I feel unworthy. I’ve still done some things I shouldn’t have done. I sort of feel guilty. And now, when I come to church, I just feel unworthy. I just feel this way. That’s just the way I feel. I overwhelmingly feel bad.”
And then somebody comes along and goes, “Oh, you shouldn’t feel that way.”
It’s like, “Dude, I feel that way. You can’t tell me not to feel that way. I feel unworthy. That’s the way I feel. Don’t tell me. Don’t quote me a Scripture. That’s the way I feel. Okay?”
And what happens is also, over here, positionally, you’re forgiven. Completely. And you go, “How does that work out?”
See, practically, this is who I am. I have not yet experienced all of the fullness of everything that God has for me, and I’m never going to and you’re never going to in this life. Period. End of story. And we can see it over and over again in Scripture. And as much as we want to try to theologize ourselves into all these crazy camps that we create, the fact of the matter is we live in between these two things and there is a tension to the mystery.
Now, let me show you how this explained in the best explanation in all of Scripture. Last night, we baptized all these people and it was great. [Inaudible 19:09], they were here, too. They helped us out. Great stuff. It was just a great night. So, we baptize everybody and I said Paul, when he talks to the church about living out a life that looks like Jesus, do you know what he goes to? He goes to baptism. He doesn’t say, “Remember the day you accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior? Remember the day you got a revelation of this?”
He didn’t say that at all. He says, “Go back to your baptism.”
He does it with the Romans. He does it with the Ephesians. He does it with the Colossians. He does it with the Corinthians. He always goes back to baptism. He goes, “Don’t you know when you were baptized?” in 1 Corinthians 10. “Don’t you know you were baptized?” in Romans 6. He says, “You went under the water and you came up out of the water. You went under the water an old man, drowned, new man comes up.”
But he says, and this is important, “Consider...” — he doesn’t say you are. He says, “Consider yourself dead to sin.”
You’re not dead to sin. You consider yourself dead to sin. And the reason you can consider yourself dead to sin is because you are all these things here even though they’re not all experienced here, but they are absolutely true whether or not you experience them here or not. It doesn’t nullify that this is true because we live in the tension of the mystery. We live in faith as to what we are in this world, knowing that those things that we’re believing in will come to pass because Paul says to the Philippian church in Philippians 1:6 that he is confident of this very thing, that the one that began a good work in you and me will bring it to completion until the day of Jesus.
Right? Okay. So, Paul’s talking about baptism and he’s saying, “Newness of life. Live in newness of life. Don’t continue to sin. Don’t do all that stuff.”
Then he gets real in Philippians 7. He goes into present tense in case you sort of think it’s past tense. He changes the Greek verbs to present tense. Here’s what he says:
“I don’t understand my own actions. It’s like I went in the water, and I came up out of the water and I have newness of life. And I want to walk in newness of life, and I really want to be all those things that God wants me to be, but man, sometimes I just am a bonehead.”
Can I get an amen? It’s like, “Man, what is going on here? I don’t even know what I’m doing sometimes.”
It’s like, “Why did I do that? I believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Why in the world would I go do that? That’s crazy.”
He says, “I don’t do what I want to do, but the very thing I hate. This is not really great. This is honest here. I got baptized. I’m considering myself dead to sin, but sometimes I just don’t know what I’m doing. It’s like, “Why did I do that? Why in the world would I do that particular thing?”
He says, “So, now,” — not in the past — “it’s no longer I who does it. I used to do it. I used to do that, but I went under the water and came back up. I don’t do that anymore. It’s not me. I’ve been redeemed. I’m a different person. It’s not I, but sin. See, I’ve got this body. I live in a fallen world. God’s not redeemed everything yet. So, there’s part of me that’s fully all there, and then there’s part of me that’s ugly. What do I do here? I know that nothing good dwells in me, just in case you forgot, because I wasn’t really talking about me. I’ve been redeemed. I’m okay. It’s my flesh. It’s not me. I’m good. I’m not doing this anymore. I’m really doing good things. I’m thinking good things. I want to follow God. But I’ve got this problem, for I have the desire to do what’s right, but not the ability to carry it out at times. I try, but it’s like, ‘Ahh.’ I prayed last night and then I did the exact opposite of what I prayed for. What’s wrong with me? What is going on in my life?”
He’s like, “What a wretched man that I am. Who will...” — future tense — “...deliver me from this body of death?”
He’s like, “I went under the waters of baptism. I’m trying to live this thing out. Sometimes it’s brutal. It’s just brutal. Am I going to get deliverance from this? Of course, I’m going to get deliverance from this because Jesus has delivered me. So, I’m living in the tension of this mystery.”
And here’s the most beautiful, beautiful passage in all the New Testament:
“There is therefore now...” — for the person who has been raise to newness of life, that struggles in the tension of the mystery of trying to do the things that they want to do, and sometimes can’t do it — “...no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
If you’re in Christ and you’re going from Romans 6 to Romans 7, you can take absolute assurance in the fact that that struggle that you are having in your life, there’s no condemnation for you because God is working in your life, or else you wouldn’t have the tension. And then what does he say? You need to walk. You need to walk. You need to walk. You need to walk after the Spirit. You need to walk. It’s a walk. See, this is all good. I’m telling you. So, faith claims the truth of God’s Word in our life regardless of what we see or feel. And we live in the tension of the mystery. Let’s get going. This is good stuff here, too.
To walk in the tension embraces the truth that the King has come and the kingdom is coming. Like, what? Hold on. Coming? How does that work? So, what we want to do is we want to relieve the tension by going to one or the other, but we can’t. Look at what the writer to the Hebrews says:
“In putting everything in subjection to him [Jesus], he left nothing outside his control.”
Nothing. So, you want to say, “Well, Chip, I had this problem in my life.”
Nothing is outside of God’s control.
“Yeah, but I had this thing.”
Nothing is outside of God’s control.
“But my marriage...”
Nothing is outside of God’s control. He is absolutely in control. Right there: “He left nothing outside his control.” Get ready. Mind blown. Get ready because the next sentence is like, “What?”
Listen. Here we go. Nothing. Nothing. Absolutely nothing outside of His control. Look here.
“Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.”
Everything is in control, but we don’t see it yet. What is going on here? It’s the tension of the mystery. There is nothing in your life that God is not sovereign over, but we don’t see the sovereignty of God in every aspect of our life because the two have not yet come together. We live in the tension of the mystery. Let’s continue on. Paul, to the Philippian church, says the same basic thing in a different way. Here’s what he says:
“For many, of whom I’ve often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk...” — because you walk one way or you walk another. It’s not a decision. It’s not a set of facts. It’s a walk. It’s a relationship.
“...walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction,” — so, walking that way is not a good thing — “their God is their belly,” — they’re appetitive. They want everything that they want now. I know nobody in America wants it now, so we’re good, but they want everything now. Everything now. Now, now, now.
“They glory in their shame,” — they take pride when they do things that we know are wrong. They glory in it — “and their minds are set on earthly things.”
That’s what they think about is the earth. The place they live. Their subdivision. Their country. Their comforts. Earthly things. They want it now and don’t care how bad it is. They take glory in shame. They’re focused here when we’re told over and over and over and over again, like Colossians 3, if you’ve been raise with Christ, seek those things that are above, not on the earth. Put your mind towards the heavenly things. In Hebrews 11, what are they looking for? What’s Abraham looking for? What’s Moses looking for? What are all these guys looking for? What are all these women looking for?
The heavenly city. That’s what they’re looking for. The heavenly city. He says, “So, here’s the reality: You can walk this way, and when you walk this way, everything’s sort of only earthly things. But listen, Church at Philippi, come here. Listen. But our citizenship is in heaven. We’re not earthly dwellers.”
And here’s what he’s saying. He’s using Roman terms to make a point. In Rome, they owned all kinds of land, but there was still land that they didn’t conquer yet. They were going to conquer it all, but they hadn’t conquered everything yet. So, what they would do is they would send people into the outer banks in areas that they didn’t control and they would build a colony. Those colonies looked like Rome, they voted like Rome, they held Caesar back in Rome, but everything around that colony and that outpost was not Roman. But they acted and they lived as Roman citizens in that colony even though everything around was not that way.
Paul is saying, “Guys and gals, you live here, but it’s not about here. It’s not about where you live. We don’t get caught up in all that stuff because our citizenship isn’t here. Our citizenship is there.”
And so, what we do is we live as heavenly colonies in whatever area of outpost we live. Whether it’s America, China, Russia or wherever it’s at, we’re not citizens. We’re strangers and pilgrims and exiles. Our citizenship is in heaven. We’re in a colony doing Jesus stuff in our colony, trying to make the outer banks that are not yet colonized, we want to make sure they’re colonized. So, our citizenship is in heaven. And, listen, from it, from our colony, we await a savior. The Lord Jesus Christ. We await His coming. We know that He’s the King, but we also know He’s coming.
He says, “And what He’ll do is He’ll transform our lowly body to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things to Himself.”
Third point of the tension: To walk in the tension realizes that there’s three tenses of our salvation. This is probably one of the big arguments in Church is salvation. Most people don’t realize that salvation is talked about in three different tenses in the New Testament. Because it’s a walk. It’s a walk. You could be saved. Remember in Acts 4:12 where Peter says, “There’s no other name given among men. Jesus is the only name that you can be saved by.”
When the Philippian Jailer says, “What do I do?”
They say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
There’s the point. Saved. But then there’s being saved. You say, “Yeah, but I was saved.”
No. There’s also being saved.
“Being saved? What’s that?”
That’s the walk. And that’s why you’re being saved if you continue to the end. You’re being saved if you walk to the end. You’re being saved if you stay on the walk. If you turn back and shrink back and you go back to all those ifs and all that stuff, because it’s a process here. It’s a walk, and we see that in Scripture. It says, “To us who are being saved, it’s the power of God.”
We’re in a walk. This is a relationship. That’s why Jesus says, “Depart from me. I never knew you.”
It’s a relationship. It’s a relationship. And then, at the end, there’s glorification, or final salvation. These are the three tenses. And what we do is we read these passages as if they’re here and we read these passages as if they’re here. And we make a mockery of what Scripture is actually telling us because there’s three tenses to our salvation. It’s called the walk all throughout the New Testament.
So, let’s talk here for a second. This is so important that we get this. So important. This is incredibly important. I don’t care if you’ve been a Christian for 30 years. So important here. First of all, there’s nothing that we can do to earn our salvation. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. They keyword here is “earn.” That’s the keyword is “earn.” You can’t earn it. So, if you’re in here today, I love you. I’m glad you’re here. I’m not trying to step on your toes and make you feel bad, but if for some reason in your mind you go, “Well, I’m not as bad as my neighbor, and I’m not as bad as my ex-wife, and I’m not as bad — I don’t even know who they are, but they look like a crackhead or whatever. I don’t know about that.”
What I’m saying is, can I tell you something? No matter how good you think you are, no matter how well you think you have arrived, there’s nothing that you can do to earn or merit your salvation. It’s not based that way. In fact, Isaiah tells us in Isaiah 64:6, “Our righteous acts...” — those are the things that we do really good — “...are like filthy rags compared to God.”
There’s nothing we can do to earn our salvation. In other words, you can’t merit it. You can’t go, “Jesus, let me pay so I can get on the walk. Let me bargain here a little bit so I can get on the walk.”
The only way that we can get on the walk is He’s given that to us. He has earned that. However, even though there’s nothing that we can do to earn our salvation — this is huge — there are things we do to receive our salvation. Big difference. Believe. Repent. Walk. These are part of receiving the gift of salvation. Because, remember: It’s three tenses. It’s not “saved.” It’s saved, being saved and ultimately saved. There’s things that we do to receive our salvation. And there are things that we do to demonstrate our salvation. Peter says, “Make your calling and election sure.”
Paul says, in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourself to make sure you are in the faith.”
There are things that we do that demonstrate our salvation. Can’t earn it. Nothing can be done to earn it, but we do receive it because it’s a gift, and a gift needs to be received because a gift can be rejected. And we also demonstrate it because we’re in a walk. And that’s why Scripture refers to this in the New Testament as the walk. It’s always the walk. It’s always the walk. It’s always walking. It’s always walking. It’s where we’re walking. It’s an active thing. We’re walking with Jesus.
Here’s the way Paul explains it: “By grace you’ve been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”
In other words, salvation is a gift. You didn’t merit the gift. You couldn’t earn the gift. You couldn’t do any of that stuff. It’s a gift. God says, “I sent my Son to die on the cross for you. If you want to receive this gift, you can be forgiven. You can receive it.”
“And it’s not a result of works, so that no one can boast.”
You can’t go, “I got in because I wasn’t like you.”
You can’t do that at all. So, you can’t earn it. But then, listen to what he says:
“For we...” — those what have received the gift — “...are his workmanship,”
In other words, you didn’t just say, “I’m in. Now, go live however you want to live. Don’t want to do anything? Just go do whatever you want to do.”
No, no. We’re His workmanship. We’re on a walk.
“Created in Christ Jesus for good works,”
In other words, He wants to demonstrate what He’s done in our lives as we walk.
“Which God prepared beforehand,” — uh-oh — “that we should walk in them.”
Think about that. So, see, we live in the tension of the mystery. So, what are the take-homes? You don’t even have to write these down. You can just memorize these. There’s just three, and they’re quick. First of all, the tension of the mystery is part of the walk. It’s just part of the walk. You can try to alleviate it. You can try to explain it away. You can go, “I don’t like it.” You can say, “I don’t want to believe it.” You can say whatever you want to say, but the tension of the mystery is part of the walk. It’s part of it.
Secondly, the tension of the mystery is proof that we’re on the walk. The struggles that you have that there’s no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus who are on the walk, the struggles that we have are proof that we’re on the walk. Because, if we weren’t on the walk, we wouldn’t care. And here’s the big one. This is the one that really ties it all together. Huge.
The tension of the mystery is where faith has opportunity. See, if you know what you know, you have knowledge. You don’t have to have faith. I met so many Christians that think they have faith. They don’t. They have knowledge. They tell you all the things they believe. They explain Jesus and everything. They have knowledge. Faith is the only way in which we please God. The only way. And faith in the tension of the mystery is the place, it’s the reason why God did it this way, it’s the reason why He created it this way, is because it gives you and me the opportunity to trust Him and to believe Him that I am on a walk of becoming all those things and those things are gradually coming into my life and I’m becoming more of what I am. But, one day, I’m going to become all of what that is because Jesus died for me, and I can take it to the bank, if I am one of His children, that I’m going to get to the end, and I’m going to be everything that God wanted me to be.
And if I do U-turns, I’m not on the walk. I’m walking. And I stumble along the way, there’s no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.
“Yeah. But Chip, sometimes I’m really freaked out.”
It’s okay, brother and sister. God’s got it. That’s your opportunity to go, “God, I need some help.”
And that is some freedom you can walk in because you can know that it ain’t you that’s got your hold on God, it’s God that has His hand on you and He’s created an opportunity for you and me to have faith as we walk in the tension of the mystery.
Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You so much for the opportunity to be able to do what I get to do and what we get to do here at Grace. Lord, it is obvious that Your hand is on this church. It’s obvious that You’re doing a work in this church. You’re raising up leaders. You’re raising up people. People are being baptized. People are coming to faith. People are getting free. Lord, that is when we know you’re at work. And God, what we pray right now, and I pray in Jesus’ name, in faith, I pray, Lord, that freedom would come to Your people. Lord, that we would stop trying to play the games of the either/or and we would embrace the tension in the mystery, and Lord, we would trust You that even though we don’t look like all that we are, and we really are those things, that we trust You by faith that one day we’re going to look fully like those things. And the beauty of it is that some of those things are going to be experienced even in the now as we continue to walk towards you.
So Lord, we love You, we thank You and we praise You. We ask, Lord, that You would bring us back safely to when we meet again, and help us, Lord, to remain the church that You’ve called us to be, which is a church that reaches the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ. Lord, we love You and we thank You for everything. In Jesus’ name, and all God’s said, “Amen.”
Give the Lord a big hand clap and tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. Have a great day.
Well, good morning to everybody and good morning, also, to those who watch via the internet and the mobile app. You know, many of us, if we take a moment, probably can look back at moments in our Christian walk — for those of us, maybe, who’ve been a Christian for several years, you look back and you can see times in your life that were massively impactful. You look back and you go, “Man, I’m so glad that happened. I’m so glad this particular thing happened,” because it sort of makes you who you are today.
One of those times for me happened at the very end of my first year in college. I went to Lee College. I was in my dorm room, and I think I was headed back home the next day. And so, some people had already left, but we were sort of all finishing up from finals and getting stuff packed up and heading back home. And I got a knock on my dorm room and it was the campus pastor. He came in. I really liked this man. He was a great man. We started talking and he says, “Chip, I know this is sort of last minute, but I got a phone call and I’ve got an opportunity if you can get some people together. I know it’s going to be tough because a lot of people have left, but we’ve got room for maybe five, six or seven people to go to Miami and do a short-terms mission project. You’ll learn to work with the homeless. You’ll learn to sleep on the streets. You’ll do ministry and all of that.”
I was like, “Yeah. That sounds like a great idea.”
I really wanted to do that. So, I was able to get a few people together and we went to Miami. And I met Allen and Linda Reesor for the first time. He’s now Dr. Allen Reesor and she’s Dr. Linda Reesor now. Allen is one of our board members, so I’ve known Allen for, literally, 30 years. I remember that summer was so impactful to me in so many ways, but there was one thing that stood out above it all. And I told Allen that, and I’ve told him that over the years. It’s remained as impactful to me today as it was when it happened back, basically, 30 years ago.
And so, what happened was is, even though we slept out in the streets and we did homeless stuff and all that, and that was a great moment for me, there was one evening that just shaped my life forever. We were in a circle, all of this group together, and Allen said, “I’m going to show you how important Christian community is.”
And I’m — I mean, honestly, at this time, you’ve got to understand something. I was the Bible reader. I mean, I would read my Bible like three or four hours a day. I could quote a lot of Scripture — most of it out of context. I thought I knew everything. I drug all these people down. I thought I was — I was like, “Man, God’s going to go great things,” and all this crazy stuff. And so, we got in the circle and Allen says, “Here’s what we’re going to do. Each person, individually, is going to go sit over in the corner with their back to the group. The group is going to talk about you as if you are not there. What you’re going to learn is that the group has things to say about you that maybe you didn’t notice or maybe things you need to work on. And I want to show you the importance of having Christian community in your life.”
And he picked me first. And I was like, “This is going to be short work. All they’re going to do is talk about how awesome I am, how well I know the Bible and that I drug them all down here. And then we can get to some real people that need some real help quickly.”
So, I got over in the corner and had my back to the group. All of this is going on and they say, “Chip’s a good guy. He brought us here. We love him a lot.” Whatever. And then he started on this stuff and I’m like, “You’ve got to be kidding me. What? Dude, come again?”
And I couldn’t respond. I mean, that was part of the exercise was I had to sit there with my back and listen to them say things about me. And then I started going, “Wow. Man, what if this is, in fact, true? What if I do have these areas of deficiencies in my life?”
And so, when I was able, then, to talk about my side of the issue or the way that I saw it, I got to do that while I washed feet. That was a moment for me, because I — I’m pretty high strung. Many of you, you just know me in passing. You don’t know me intimately. You know, I’m a pretty high-strung guy. I’m a guy that, you know, I will tackle the tree. I’ll run hard. I’ll do whatever. I mean, I’m really a driven individual. To have to sit there and listen to that, I had that struggle of I either — this is really true and I really need people in my life and I really can’t do this on my own, or it’s not true and I’m going to do it all on my own. It’s going to be me and Jesus against the world.
And in that summer, I realized how important it was to have people in my life. And as we’re in a series called “The Walk” and we’re talking about walking with God, we’re talking about walking after God, I know this is a foreign concept to many people, but I want to make sure that I say it very, very clearly. If you’re listening via the internet and the mobile app, this is for you as well. This is for everybody here. We cannot properly walk the walk with God alone. You can’t. And I know that strikes a chord to so many of us because, listen, we’re raised in a culture where it’s all about individualism. Your individual rights, your individual stuff and everything. And I’m not trying to get on anybody, it I’m just trying to say there’s nothing like that found in Scripture. That’s a cultural thing. And I’m not saying anything other than it’s just a cultural thing.
But a Jesus thing is that it’s us. We need each other. We cannot do it alone. Your culture tells you if it’s going to be, it’s up to me. Your culture says, “You’re the one that has to do it. What do you want to be in life?”
And Scripture says that’s not the way it works at all. We all need each other. And I love it, as a professor, when I get to take that moment. New kids. Maybe they’re freshmen or sophomores or they’re just being exposed to Scripture. I love being able to say, “Hey, when you read in Scripture when it talks about Christ died for you and Christ in you and Christ did this for you and forgave you or whatever, those ‘yous’ are not singular. At all. They’re plural.”
Which means that as much as I’m all for — listen, I’m all for you having a daily quiet time. I do believe you have a personal relationship with Jesus. I just want you to know that the Bible doesn’t talk about salvation and those concepts in those terms. It talks about it in terms of a corporate deal. Jesus died for the Church in the book of Ephesians. It’s about what God is doing in restoring everything back in the way that He does it. There is a corporate sense that’s very difficult for us to read because when we read “you,” we read “me.” That’s the way we read because that’s the way our cultural has taught us.
And so, what I want to say is that this idea of “I need somebody in my life” can feel sort of foreign. It can feel a little off-putting. And I just want to ask you to just put the walls down a little bit and just let me talk to you for a little bit. I really believe what I’m going to say this weekend is so important for us to get. And I think it’s important for everybody to get. And so, here’s what I get to do. I wasn’t going to do this, but since they brought the cake out here and said it was my birthday, this is what I would like for you all for my birthday. This is what I’m asking for everybody: Give me a listen and listen to what I have to say for the next 45 minutes or so. I’m just kidding. Probably for the next 10 or 15, but the reality is listen to what I have to say because I think this can change your life.
So, here’s what I want to do. When we come to a Scripture like 1 Corinthians 12:26 where Paul says this: “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
We sort of get an idea of what that means, especially talking about the body. You know, if you break your finger, it’s like your whole body realizes that your finger’s broken. Right? Man, I know that finger’s broken. I don’t know about you all, but I have this right little toe that, for some reason, between two and four o’clock in the morning, likes to find corners and edges of things at night. Maybe you all don’t have that thing, but this little piggy, he went to market every evening. He likes to hit stuff. And let me tell you something: When that dude hits something, I haven’t thought about him all week, I haven’t talked to him, we haven’t played little piggy or anything like that. The reality is when he gets hit, the whole body — I mean, it’s like my whole body goes into — whatever.
Or have you ever stepped on a piece of Lego at night? The devil created Lego. I’m telling you right now. I mean, if you step on a piece of Lego at night, you will realize how sanctified you are because there’ll be words coming out of your mouth that you ain’t heard in 20 years. You know? But we sort of get this idea, you know, if one member suffers, we all suffer together. We sort of get that idea with the body. And we sort of get that idea, you know, maybe we’re in a small group and maybe we know somebody that went through something. And so, we’re all sort of there together. But the theological profoundness of this is far greater than the way we’re seeing it.
Paul is saying that not just here, not just with the churches down the street, not just with the churches in Sarasota, not with just the churches in Florida, not with just the churches in America, that every single person that constitutes the body of Christ, when one suffers, all suffer. You go, “Well, I don’t feel that.”
It doesn’t make a difference whether you feel it or not. It’s the theological profoundness of this of how important it is to see how valuable every single brother and sister that we have actually is. And if one member is honored, all rejoice together. This is so profound because it rips at the individualistic tendencies that we have to say that every single member of not this church, but the Church united worldwide, we’re all in this thing together. And we can’t see ourselves as one member, as one person, as one entity. We’re involved in a massive body of work and we’re all tied together.
Here’s what’s crazy: You know how Paul reasons to this? How he gets to this point where he’s talking about the body, and we all come together, and we all need each other, and some are hands, and some are feet, and some are eyes and some are this? And we all come together, and if one member then suffers, we all suffer? How does he get there? He gets there in 1 Corinthians 11. In 1 Corinthians 11, he writes to a church that has gone sort of rogue. They’ve got all these different factions. You can even see it in 1 Corinthians 1. Some of them are like, “I got baptized by Apollos.” Some people are like, “I got baptized by Cephas.” Some of them are like, “I got baptized by Paul. My baptism was better because Paul baptized me.”
“No. Mine was better because Apollos baptized me.”
They’ve sort of gone off into factions. And when they come together and meet, Paul says, “Hey, when you guys come together and have church, it’s not even good. It’s actually bad. When you come together it’s bad because. You’ve factioned off in so many different ways, and that’s not the way the Church should be. We’re in this thing together.” He goes, “Don’t you remember that the Lord gave to me a directive, and the directive was this? That He took the bread on the night that He was betrayed and He blessed it and He broke it? He says, ‘This is my body,’ and He took the cup after supper and said, ‘This is the new covenant in my blood?’ Don’t you know when you come to the table of the Lord, you are uniting with everyone that comes to that table? It doesn’t make a difference what background, what car you drive, how much money you’ve got in your account, what kind of jeans you wear. All of that gets put away. What matters is you come as a body together.”
And here’s what he says in 1 Corinthians 11. He says, “Examine yourself, then, before you eat and drink of the cup.”
Examine, because here’s just the massive profoundness of Paul’s thoughts. He says, “Anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body...” — that’s you and me.
“...without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”
Think about that for a second. What if the reason that some of us are struggling in our lives, what if the reason that some of us can’t overcome that addiction, what if the reason that some of us can’t move forward in this area of our life, what if the reason that we can’t get our marriages together is because we’re trying to do it on our own and we haven’t properly discerned the need for others in our life and properly discerned the body?
Think about that. It’s massive. That’s what Paul’s saying, which is why he goes into 1 Corinthians 12 and says, “It’s so important that we come together.”
Now, here’s the thing. Listen. I’m not saying this is going on. Don’t read into this. This is me talking because, as a pastor, sometimes you’ve got to be preventative and you’ve got to talk about things and expose ideas so that we don’t go this way. I think this church is awesome. I think we’re doing so many great things right. But what I will tell you is — and it’s easy to slide in culture this way — is it’s easy when we start talking about community, living together and doing life together, it’s real easy to think that what that looks like is different from what Scripture says it looks like.
And so, I’m going to use the analogy of the country club. So, listen. If you joined a country club and you’re in a country club, Pastor Chip is not telling you that you’re going to hell or that you’ve got a problem. None of that stuff. Don’t read into what I’m saying. I’m just using this as an analogy. Because, oftentimes, the community that we settle for in church is more of a country club than it is real, genuine, authentic Christianity.
Let me explain how that works. The country club mentality is all about us. I’ve never met anybody ever that joined a country club that shut their eyes and just rolled their iPhone and said, “Bam. That’s the one I’m going to join.”
You don’t do that. You’re going to go and say, “You know, I want to join this one. It’s close to me. This is where I live. It’s got the right golf course or the right tennis or the right swimming pool or the right restaurant.”
You’re going to join that country club because it’s really all about what you want. Now, I know nobody joins churches for those reasons. Maybe it’s the nine o’clock service did, but not you all, right? So, what I’m saying is it’s easy to fall into this country club mentality. It’s all about what I want. It’s all about the things that matter to me. I want to find the thing that fits perfect for me, the way I like it, and what I like.
This is the country club mentality. “Not only is it all about us, but it’s people like me. I want to hang around people like me that sort of live in the same area, that sort of drive the same cars, maybe the same color of skin, maybe the same economic background. I like to hang around — “
It’s called a homogeneous unit in sociology. We like homogeneous units. And here’s the deal. We’ve all seen the movie where everybody’s at the country club, and everybody’s sitting there sipping their tea and some people are with the pinky out. They’ve got the thing going on and everything. And then somebody walks in that doesn’t look like everybody in the country club, and everybody in the movie does this.
That would never happen in a church. At all. Would it? Is it possible? I’m just asking. Is it possible that we could say, “You know what? You know, this is what I think. It’s all about what I want. People like me.”
In a country club mentality, complaining gets things done. See, you pay your dues, right? You pay your dues, so you want to tell everybody what’s wrong. You want to tell everybody the things that should be done differently, the way things should be. This is what you do in a country club. I will say this, and I’m not trying to step on anybody’s toes, but I’m trying to be a pastor and just speak the truth here: In the Bible, complainers are equated with unbelievers. Let me say that again: In the Bible, complainers are equated with unbelievers. They grumble and they complain because they’re unbelievers.
Do you know what Christians are? They’re people that give thanks even in trials and difficulties. That’s a word right there. It’s more than you all are letting on. Anyway, so it’s all about us, people like me, complaining gets things done and activities are there to please the members. If they don’t please the members, everybody sort of gets into a revolt and complains so that they can get things done. Because, ultimately, it’s all about us, people like me and everything else.
What I’m saying is is this: It is easy for us, because of the society that we live in, it’s easy for us to want to get into a small group that looks like this. And what we do is we convince ourselves that we’re doing authentic community when we actually aren’t. What we’re doing is living a country club mentality. Let me give you the antithesis of country club living. It’s called community. Community is all about Jesus. It’s all about what He wants. It’s all about how He is. It’s all about what His things are because we’ve decided we’re going to follow Jesus. It’s no longer about me. It’s about Him.
Not only that, but it’s a melting pot. Not the restaurant. Don’t get excited about fondue right now. It’s a melting pot. It’s a group of people that come together from different backgrounds and cultures. I mean, that’s what heaven is. Heaven says it’s people from all different nations, tribes, colors and backgrounds. That’s what heaven looks like. That means if we’re doing true, authentic community that reflects Jesus, it should look like a melting pot of people that come from different backgrounds, cultures, tribes, nations and all that good stuff.
And let me say this to you here: If the church you go to — because you may move one day. You may go to another church. I’m saying this as a pastor. I’m being pastoral here. If the church you go to doesn’t, every once in a while, get in your grill, if somebody doesn’t come along and mess your hair up every once in a while, if you don’t get rubbed wrong every once in a while, you’re just in the wrong place. You need some of that. God did not organize the Church so that it could just make everybody happy. He organized the Church so that through having to deal with people who see things differently, that have different views, that have different takes, what we do is we get stretched and we get pulled because God uses the body to conform us to the image of Christ.
It’s not about entertaining us. It’s about conforming us to the image of Christ. And so, there’s going to be a melting pot. And I’m going to tell you something: I am thankful to God that Grace Community Church, when I look around, we are melting pot church. There is so much diversity in this church, and I am thankful to God that we are like that. And we need to be and continue to be like that. Not only that, but service and love are what gets things done in true community. We serve one another.
See, faith is different than me doing it on my own. See, when I want something done, if I just complain and get it done, it doesn’t require any faith. I’d just go get it done. Faith says, “I’ve got to trust God to love this person that maybe did me wrong, and trust that God is going to do something great out of this.”
Yes. Can I tell you something? Heaven is eternity with all the brothers and sisters. Some people are going to have a hard time in heaven because they’ve got some real issues with their brothers and sisters. Do you hear me? I’m serious. I mean, this is so important that we get service and love. And then the reality is rather than things to please ourselves, it’s outreach to the unchurched. What happens is as we get talking about Jesus and we’re a melting pot and we’re serving and loving one another, we realize that, hey, this cannot just be an inward focused thing. It also has to go and reach out to others.
And so, let’s not settle ever, ever for a church that can become more like a country club. Let’s make sure that we really foster and support and model, in this church, genuine, true, authentic community because we really need each other.
Now, here’s what I’m going to do. I’ve got four quick things that I want to tell you about why we need each other. And so, if you take notes, this is a good time to take notes. If you don’t take notes, this is a good time to maybe learn to take notes. If you don’t have anything to write on, just take your neighbors arm, get a pen and write on their arm. Okay? And then take your phone and take a picture of the notes that you wrote so that you have them with you when you leave. Amen? So, let’s take some note here and let’s think about this.
This first one here that I want to talk about, the need for each other, is huge, this is mind-blowing, this is theological bombshell material. This is huge. Listen to this first point. We need each other or eternity will be imperfect. You go, “What? What do you mean by that?”
I’ll tell you what I mean by that. In Hebrews 11 — if you’ve been around church long enough, you’ve probably heard it called “The Hall of Faith.” It is a chapter that is devoted to great men and women who had faith in God that they saw things that didn’t look like what God had promised and they kept going. They trusted God when they couldn’t see. They trusted God when it didn’t make any sense. They trusted God even though they didn’t even receive everything that God had said on this particular time and journey in their life. It was something they had to trust God for in the afterlife. These are the heroes and heroines of faith. They’re the people that love God. Some of them, they’ve killed bears and took out kings and other people were killed and stoned and cut in two. The bottom line is these are people of faith.
And here’s the way the writer to the Hebrews, the preacher that’s preaching this message to these people — this is the way this person, whoever wrote it, ends Hebrews 11.
God’s calling. He says, “Listen, right now, to this guy. He’s telling you the truth.”
Okay? Listen. We need each other or eternity will be imperfect. Listen here to what he says:
“All these,” — all the people we just talked about in Hebrews 11 — “though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”
Listen to this. This is huge. Every single person that Jesus died for, that constitutes His church, is needed in eternity, or the body will not be perfect. Do you understand the value and the dignity that that gives to every person that is a Christian? Eternity is not perfect without you there. Think about the ramifications of that. Think about how that would change the way we viewed our brothers and sisters when they did us wrong or they said something that we didn’t like. We’d go, “Well, you know what? I’m going to be imperfect in eternity if they’re not there, so I’d better go figure out — whatever I’ve got to do to get that right, I’m going to go do it. Because it’s more important that that’s right than I’m right.”
More important that that relationship is right than I’m right. That’s why Jesus says in Matthew 5, He goes, “If you’re bringing your gift to the altar and you realize somebody has something against you — not you have something against them, but they’ve got something against you — go make that right and then come give your gift.”
See, because the value and dignity of people — and maybe you’re here today and you’re going, “Yeah, you know, I’m a Christian, but I really don’t feel like I’ve got a lot of value and dignity,” can I just tell you as your pastor that eternity is imperfect without you? That’s the value and the significance that you have to Jesus. That’s why it’s so important we need each other.
Second reason we need each other is because we all need someone we can call at three a.m. I was over in Winter Haven a couple of weeks ago. I got to speak at a church. Before I spoke, I went out into the congregation and started talking to some of the people that were there. I met this man and I talked to him for a minute. I said, “How long have you been here?”
He says, “Eleven years.”
I said, “That’s fantastic. Tell me about your experience here at the church.”
He said, “Well, it’s been fantastic. But two years ago, Pastor Jeff got up and started speaking on the need for friendships and the need for people in our lives. I really had never had that. So I found a guy in church that I knew I could talk to. We both liked getting out in the woods, so we went out in the woods, and we were around a campfire and I finally just went for it. I said, ‘Hey, man. I want to tell you all the things that I’ve done.’”
He said, “I just sat there for several hours and just confessed all the sins that I’d ever done and all the stuff that I was just hanging on with.”
He goes, “Let me tell you something. I have not walked in the freedom that I’ve been walking with in the last two years ever in my life. That just set me free. And I love this church for that reason.”
And I want to say that to you all that you need somebody. James, in James 5, when he says, “Confess your faults, one to another, that you may be healed,” that “you” is not singular. That “you” is plural. When we are a place where we can confess our faults and people can hear us because we’ve got a friend at three a.m. in the morning, not only do you and that person win, but the whole church wins in that situation. And I don’t want to get in anybody’s grill or get anybody mad at me, but can I say something to you? For the love of God, if somebody shares something in their life that they’ve done, and they share it with you, please, for the love of God, don’t share it with other brothers and sisters out in the hub. Seriously. There have been so many people that have been hurt that have said, “I’m going to step out in faith and I’m going to be vulnerable for a second,” and then we’ve taken that and abused that. Don’t do that.
Listen to how important it is to have somebody at three o’clock in the morning that would love you, that would care for you. James envisions that’s the way the Church is. James says this: “My brothers, if anyone among you...” — because, again, corporate idea here — “...wanders from the truth...” — it’s possible. I’ve met plenty of people that have wandered from the truth — “...and someone brings him back...” — listen to this. These are brothers among you. These are Christians that have wandered from the truth, and someone brings them back.
“Let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.”
Let me paraphrase this for you. This is the Bennett version. It’s not inspired. It shouldn’t be included in the Scripture, but it gives the idea of what I think James is saying. You want someone in your life that will love your soul enough to tell you the truth. Tuesday, I drove to Ft. Lauderdale to spend a couple of days with Warren Gage, my doctoral advisor and one of my good personal friends. We showed up at a restaurant. I had my iPad and my stuff. We were going to talk about some of the recordings we’re going to do, some of the academic things that we’re going to do. We sat down. He ordered a tea. I ordered a Coke — on the rocks. I always do that. People say, “Would you like something to drink?”
I’m like, “I’ll take a Coke on the rocks.”
They’re like, “Okay.”
Anyway. So, I’m sitting there with a Coke and we haven’t said anything. Warren looks at me and he says, “Chip, how’s your soul? Chip, how are you doing with the Lord? Chip, do you still pray for all the chairs at the church?”
And do you know what I said to myself? Thank God somebody cares about my soul. Thank God somebody in my life — and I’ve got plenty of them — will ask me the tough questions and get up in my grill and ask me. We need somebody in our life that loves our soul enough to tell us the truth. Even if we don’t want to hear it in the corner, even if we don’t want to swallow it, even if we don’t want to think about it, even if it’s challenging us. If we are Christians and we love Jesus, then we want to be like Jesus. And somebody at some time in some place is going to look at you and look at me if we have people in our lives that care for our soul that’s going to say something to us that we don’t want to hear, that we don’t like, but we’re going to have to process because it’s so important that we hold each other accountable and have people in our lives that care for our souls, because you need somebody at three o’clock in the morning that you can call when life is tough.
And let me tell you something: Every one of us have it. Every single one of us. That’s why we do things like this. The reason we do supper clubs is so you can find somebody that you can call, that you can talk to, that’s a relationship that’s honest. Because we realize how important that is. Because every single one of us, myself included, are going to have days where we go, “I want to give up.” We’re going to have days that we go, “I can’t believe I did that.” We’re going to have days that we go, “I need help in this part of my life.” You need people, we all need people that we can trust and they will hold us up because they love us.
Third thing. This is huge. We need each other because the wackiest doctrines and people are formed when people leave community. This is just a truth. You get somebody off on their own: “I’m going to go find Jesus on my own.”
You can’t. You’ve got to do that within community. Scripture wasn’t birthed out of individualism. It was birthed out of community. The reason these books were included is because it blessed the people in the community. It’s all about community. You can’t do theology on your own. You’ve got to do theology with people. I’ve got a professor friend, Gerald Bray, that’s considered to be the greatest Christian historian of our generation — at least he understands Church history better than anybody else. He has a class that he teaches called “Reading with the Dead.”
What he says is, “How in the world do you think you can do theology without reading the 2,000 years that have come before you?”
You can’t do it, and you can’t do theology without having people in your life. The wackiest doctrines come when somebody decides around their kitchen table they’re going to open up the Bible and they’re going to read it and they read a passage out of context or they read one verse and they run with it. And then what they do is they find about 15 other people that agree with the same thing. They’re not in community. They’re in a country club. And they all run around doing the same thing. And when somebody walks in and goes, “Hey, guys. That’s not even close to what Scripture says,” they go, “We don’t want to hear about it.”
And most of those people, when they leave churches, they leave churches because they don’t like to hear what Scripture’s actually saying. They want to hear what they want Scripture to say. If Jesus isn’t challenging you and you’re not getting challenged in your faith and you’re not getting your toes stepped on every once in a while, then go find a church that will do that for you because it is so imperative that we are conformed to the image of Christ, and not entertained. We need community in our lives and we need people in our lives. And some of the wackiest doctrines and people that you will ever meet are people that decide they’re going to go do it on their own.
That’s way better preaching than anybody is letting on in here, because it’s the truth. And some people need to be called out every once in a while. You’re wacky! I’ve needed to be called out. I’ve had people comment, “You’re wacky,” and I was. I went off on my own, found something, read something and thought I knew what. It was wrong. It just was wrong. It was wrong as wrong as wrong as wrong as wrong could be, and I needed somebody that cared enough about me to grab me by the scruff of my neck and say, “Dude, get into the Word here and understand what it’s saying, because you’re wrong.”
And sometimes it’s important to do that. And the last thing is we need each other to persevere. This is huge. This is huge. One of the things I can tell you about walking with the Lord that’s all through Scripture is those that walk to the Lord endure to the end. That doesn’t mean you don’t have moment of doubt, moments where you mess up and seasons where you do things that you just can’t believe that you did. The point is you make it. This is something that Scripture teaches so clearly that those who endure to the end, that there’s a thing called perseverance. Perseverance is something that we need in our lives, and we can’t do it alone.
Listen to this: The writer to Hebrews, this book that I’ve been talking to you about, is writing to people that are thinking about leaving the faith. This is Thomas Long. He’s a professor. He’s a great professor. I’ve sort of taken some of his words. I changed a few of them, but this is what he says here about the book of Hebrews:
“His congregation is exhausted. They’re tired. They’re tired of serving the world, tired of worship, tired of Christian education, tired of being peculiar and whispered about in society, and tired of spiritual struggle. They’re tired of trying to keep their prayer life going and tired, even, of Jesus. Their hands droop and their knees are weak (Hebrews 12:12.) Attendance is down at church (Hebrews 10:25) and they’re losing confidence. The threat to this congregation is not that they’re charging off in the wrong direction. They don’t even have enough energy to charge off anywhere. The threat here is that, worn down and worn out, they will droop their end of the rope and drift away. Tired of walking the walk, many of them are considering taking a walk, leaving the community and falling away from the faith.”
Now, listen: The antidote that the preacher gives in Hebrews is not sing different songs, it’s not to do a community-wide thing, it’s not to have conflict resolution brought into the Church, not to change the background or the setting or the things or the groups or anything. No. The answer to falling away, to the writer of the Hebrews, is this. Listen.
“Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you...” — brothers, brothers — “...an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.”
Take care. And here’s his answer; the antidote: “Exhort one another every day,”
You need people in your life. The antidote is community. The antidote is someone that cares enough about your soul to get in your grill to make sure that you keep walking the walk.
“...as long as it’s called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.”
And let me show you how this works, because he lays it out. He says, “The first thing that happens is there’s sin.”
Let me just make it really easy here. Sin is anything — anything that we move from Jesus being the most important thing in our life, the focus of our life — anything that we substitute Jesus with is sin. That’s all it is. Sin is like, “I’m going to go focus over here on this particular thing because I like this better.”
And what we have to do, if we get sin in our heart, is we have to go to deceit. We have to deceive ourselves that as Christians, even though we know that Jesus is the ultimate thing that we’re supposed to be following, the ultimate one that we’re supposed to be looking at, we have to do some sort of gymnastics inside to deceive ourselves that the way that we’re going is the right way. “Oh, well this book’s an old book. There’s cultural things. I’m going to do it this way now. I’m going to do it a little bit my way.”
And we start justifying, through deceit, the fact that our hearts have now turned from God and are not looking to Him for everything. And then what happens is we get hardened. And, as a pastor, there’s so many times I’ve gotten in somebody’s grill to say, “Dude, what you are doing is leading your soul to damnation. You’re in the wrong path.”
And they’re so hard because they’ve allowed this thing, whatever it is, to displace the glory of God in their lives. And what they’ve done is they’ve deceived themselves to the place that they are, and they become so hardened to the truth that the next thing is they start walking in unbelief. They no longer believe. And, the next thing, they’ve fallen away. And here’s the deal. I’m going to tell you right now. I care enough about your soul to get in your grill and tell you that you need people in your life. I need people in my life. If we’re going to walk the walk, we need people in our lives that will say, “Come on, Chip. You can do this. Don’t you know the things that God did when you were 18? Don’t you know the calling that He gave you? Don’t you know that you can make it? Come on. Get up. I know it was a rough week. I know it was bad, but you can do it. Come on. You can make it.”
Exhorting everyone daily that we can do this thing, that we have the ability within us. Christ lives within you and me and the power of God that lives within you and me, as a church, can get us all into glory together. That’s what we’ve got to become. We’ve got to realize we need each other. We need each other. I got a text — somebody said preach. I’m trying. I got a text. I guess Allen Reesor was in the first morning service at nine o’clock. I didn’t even know it. He texted me and he said, “You took me back a long way, telling that story.”
That story changed my life. Not the story, but the deal. I’ve had people in my life. Tom Jones, our executive pastor, has got on a plane from Atlanta and came to Orlando to knock on my door to ask how I’m doing. See, if it were up to me, I wouldn’t be your pastor. I would’ve probably gone off on another track and gone somewhere else because I’ve had enough to get discouraged and enough to quit in my life. But I didn’t. And it wasn’t because of how faithful I was. It was the faithfulness of God working through Christians that cared for my soul that got me up and back on the path again to do the things that need to be done. And we all need that. We all need people in our lives that will do that.
And so, for my birthday, what I ask for you is this: If you don’t have people that will care for your soul — I’m not talking about people that look the same way and talk the same way and believe the same way and all you do is sit around and talk about the same thing all the time and it just makes you feel good. I’m talking about people in your life that will get in your grill and say, “Hey. Listen, man. This is serious. There is a war for your soul.”
There is a war for your soul, church, and the antidote is to make sure that we’ve got good people in our lives that will tell us the truth because they love our soul.
Dear Heavenly Father, I not only pray for everyone that’s here right now, but I also pray for everyone that will be hearing this message via the internet and the mobile app. There’s people in Seattle, there’s people up north, there’s people in other countries that watch these things. Lord, I pray that what we would hear today is the importance of community. Lord, we need each other. That is the truth of Scripture. And I pray, God, that You would tear down the walls of pride, I pray that You would tear down the walls of individualism, and I pray that You would tear down the walls of bad doctrinal teaching that somehow tells us that we can do this alone or that we can just do it with You alone and we don’t need anybody else.
That is not what Your Word says. Your Word is very clear that we need other people in our lives. Lord, help us, as a church, to foster that community, to be that community that genuinely looks to You and also has people that love You in our lives to encourage us every single day to keep moving forward.
So, Lord, as we walk out of here today, I pray that You would watch over us and protect us, continue to lead and guide us, continue to help us, Lord, to be the church that You have called us to be. Don’t let us walk to the left or to the right. Help us to stay focused on the things that You’ve called us to be, to be the church that reaches the unchurched by being intentional neighbors that reflect Christ.
Lord, we love You, we thank You and we praise You. In Jesus’ name, and everybody said, “Amen.”
Give the Lord a big hand clap. Tell Him you love Him. God bless everybody. Have a great day.